Editor's Note: October is Women’s History Month in Canada. Since 1992, Canadians have been celebrating the outstanding achievements of women throughout Canada’s history.
It makes sense that the career paths followed by many women in today’s oil and gas sector were carved out by a geologist: Helen Belyea.
At a time when it was the norm for women to be in the home rather than the workforce, let alone out in the field wielding rocker hammers and wearing hiking boots alongside their male counterparts, a young Belyea was making history.
In 1950, when the newly discovered oil reserve near Devon, Alberta, started producing at Leduc No. 1, the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) sent Belyea—originally from New Brunswick—to monitor the well, making her the first female geologist to work in the field.
Belyea spent 40 years working as a geologist with the GSC, most of them in Alberta. She was well known for her pioneering work, which included over 30 scientific papers and receiving numerous awards, including the Barlow Memorial Medal from the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. She was also made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Not only was Belyea literally breaking ground while studying the geology of the West, she was also trailblazing paths for women in the oil and gas sector by becoming an honourary member of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists.
Often found exploring the Canadian Rockies on foot, skis, or horseback (Beylea was an equestrian and often rode horses on excursions), her love for the outdoors is what led her to geology. While an undeniable success, her history-making career as a geologist followed her first career as a lieutenant in the Canadian Navy.
Belyea died in 1986, but left behind an incredible legacy for male and female geologists alike.
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