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Kirsten Godbout

Energy & Resources

The future of remote site hospitality is gender-balanced

I started working in hospitality and tourism at the age of 17. I am a social person and love meeting new people, so hospitality suited me well.

After learning of remote sites and rotation work, I decided to work at a camp for a year then travel for 6 months. But once I joined the industry, I realised that there was too much opportunity for growth and learning to leave after just a year. I’m nearly 13 years deep now and counting.

Having spent 7 years on oil & gas industry sites, I had planned to return to hotels, but during an interview for a role with Sodexo on a construction remote site camp, I really clicked with the manager. The rest is history!

Creating a home from home

Kirsten Godbout

I like to think of myself as the bridge between remote sites and what we traditionally think of as the hospitality industry. On a remote site, my guests are like hotel clientele, except they stay weeks or months at a time. You get to know them on a deeper level. They become like family. The sense of community in camps is amazing.

Employers now know that employees who feel cared for, comfortable and safe are more productive, likely to stay for longer, and perform more safely on the job. Truly good hospitality in camp provides a lot of value.

The facility I currently manage at Sodexo is 1.2 million square foot, the largest self-contained industrial lodging facility in Canada. It’s under construction but when complete it will have facilities like a rock-climbing wall, lounge, golf simulators, and state of the art gym. The people who stay here will have so much more than just room and board.

My team has a true hospitality ethos; we create a safe, warm and welcoming atmosphere to ensure each guest has a genuinely positive experience. There's a lot of laughter and chatter in the hallways. That’s my measure of success.

5 roles in 5 years with Sodexo

My first role with Sodexo Canada was Rooms Division manager at a 600-room site in Northern Manitoba, “Keewatinohk Lodge” and I am now the General Manager at Cedar Valley Lodge, which serves the construction of the Liquid Natural Gas facility in Kitimat, British Columbia, designed to host 4500 people. Here we will oversee more than 250 staff at peak operation who handle catering, culinary, janitorial, maintenance, recreation, and guest services.

In my 5 years with Sodexo to date I’ve held 5 roles and worked at three different locations. I often tell people that you get what you give with Sodexo and opportunities have always arisen and new challenges have been never been lacking.

In the past I had experienced discrimination when I was passed up for promotions, but this isn’t something I’ve experienced or witnessed at Sodexo.

I feel I’ve achieved every promotion on merit and that Sodexo truly lives its values and is committed to diversity across the business.

Calling out and eliminating toxic behaviour

I don't know of any other women in this role in this industry. And the people we serve are over 80% male. There is a historic perception that, as well as this industry being male dominated, women within this industry are treated badly.

When I took on my first camp role, I was warned about the ‘macho male culture’ at camp facilities. Unfortunately, I did experience this culture first-hand before I joined Sodexo, as well as unwanted attention, harassment, and assault.

Initially I felt embarrassed and didn’t want to cause trouble, so I kept silent, but one of my male colleagues convinced me to report the assaults after I confided in him. I then found out that other women had been victimized too.

I have shared my experience with both men and women, hoping to call out and eliminate toxic behaviour. My personal experience has shaped my approach at Cedar Valley Lodge. I organize events for both employees and guests, which promote learning and inclusion, creating good advocates and allies and hoping they emulate the same behaviour. With 4500 people on a site I cannot guarantee that everyone will behave appropriately, but I can create a culture of comfort and safety for everyone who spends time with us, including women.

Gender balance in the construction camp industry

Group photo of colleagues
Kirsten (centre) with Tina Thompson, AGM (left) and Jessica Huff, AGM (right)

There are huge possibilities for an amazing career in remote site camps and women must not be excluded from this opportunity.
 
Seeing female leadership in the company I work for helps demonstrate that there is a path ahead. The fact that 60% of Sodexo’s board is female shows that Sodexo sees diversity as a benefit and an asset.

My two deputies are women and my leadership team is gender-balanced, which I believe creates an inclusive and collaborative environment in which to work.

I have worked in remote environments for over a decade, and I know we have a lot of work to do to attract talented women to the industry, but I want to be part of the solution.

This article was created by Kirsten Godbout, General Manager for Sodexo operations at Cedar Valley Lodge.

March 08, 2021

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Kirsten Godbout

About the author : Kirsten Godbout

CAPM, General Manager for Sodexo operations at Cedar Valley Lodge

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