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Calgary archaeologist launches foundation to support female field researchers

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A Calgary archaeologist wants to help more women get out in the field by launching the Fair Field Foundation, an organization to break barriers women often face.

Margarita de Guzman employs 50 per cent women as managing director at Circle CRM Group, which runs archaeological projects.

She wants more women to join her on field sites, but says women often lack support in the industry.

"We've seen a lot of women leave the industry because it's so difficult to leave home for long periods of time, we're gone in the field for 10-14 days at a time," said de Guzman.

She said women are often counted out, as they juggle childcare and nursing demands that can be barriers to joining research field work projects or "digs."

She's also observed female counterparts lacking confidence, receiving less pay than male colleagues, or sometimes struggling with the physically demanding aspects of archaeology.

"It's really just a stigma, a stigma that we've learned. I think we can do anything we want to do. It's up to us to say yes we can do it," said de Guzman.

In January she launched her foundation offering direct support for women, mentorship opportunities and workshops -- all in effort to keep women from leaving the industry or shying away from leadership.

She said two-thirds of students at university programs are women, but there's a noticeable drop off of women after five to 10 years into their careers.

She later added, "it's really just a fun job and you can get somewhere with it. You can buy a house. You can have a family. You can do all the things and still do what you love."

The Fair Field Foundation isn't exclusive to women and de Guzman hopes to expand to include other research industries.

CHALLENGES IN THE FIELD

Another archaeologist agrees that there are unique pressures on women, especially on field sites.

Arianne Boileau is not affiliated with de Guzman's foundation, but the Mount Royal University anthropology professor told CTV News she's experienced sexism while on a research trip.

Arianne Boileau during an archaeological research trip in a cave in Central America. Now a professor in Calgary, she wants to be an example of women in leadership.

"The women were left behind for a project and (were told) it was for security reasons," said Boileau, of an instance while out in a remote region of Central America where a drug cartel may have been nearby.

Boileau and other women continued to do lab work in a safer location, accepting the risk assessment, "but it didn't mean that it didn't hurt," she said.

"It made me feel like I was not a full human, you know," said Boileau.

With a passion for the ancient Mayan civilization, she said she completed physically demanding field work by working with other women to move boulders, in order to continue to participate.

Boileau's focus these days is on academic leadership. She said she strives to be a mentor, something that was important to her from her time as a student.

"There were examples for me, but there were few. So I had to look and seek women advisors and mentors."

The topic of the next Fair Field Foundation event will be female archaeologists who also balance the demands of parenting young children.

The online session runs on April 13th.

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