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Women Who Inspire - International Women's Day 2022

March 2, 2022

Every year around International Women's Day, we like to recognize the efforts of women across our operations. At J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI), we understand the importance of elevating, celebrating, and amplifying the achievements of women in the workforce. We also know that women on our teams go above and beyond to uplift the communities where they live and work. We are proud to present profiles of women around JDI who inspire others, every day.


Corporate Division

Gracelyn Kaine is a dedicated member of our Human Resources team. She has been with JDI since 2018 and when she is not helping people across our organization, she is active in the softball community. Gracelyn has been playing softball for 16 years and is the Technical Director of the KV Girls Softball Association. “I wanted to become involved with the KV Girls Softball Association as I think it is really important to give back to the sport that has given me so much and this association is first-class in promoting girls in sport. Having the opportunity to empower young female athletes in softball is a great privilege and I am lucky to be a part of it,” says Gracelyn. She believes in encouraging girls to play sports while also teaching them about leadership, work ethic, and believing in themselves. “International Women’s Day is important as we celebrate women’s and girl’s achievements as well as raise awareness of the progress and work that still needs to be done. I feel very grateful to be surrounded by strong women both in the workplace and on the ball field.”

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Jeannette LeBlanc is well known not only around JDI, but also the Saint John Community. She has been with the organization for over 40 years, holding numerous roles with our Woodlands and Finance teams. Her community efforts around JDI have been plentiful, including being the team lead for the Rally of Hope through the 90s & early 2000s, being a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, leading teams in raising countless dollars for Bowl for Kids Sake, organizing our yearly employee Fall Fest for over 25 years, and many other activities! “I don’t know anyone who gives more of their time, talent, and skill and is so supportive of the community and their work colleagues,” says Deb Fisher, PALS Coordinator, who has partnered with Jeannette on numerous projects for many years. Jeannette is a mother of two and grandmother of three girls who she hopes will carry on her legacy of supporting others, “I really think it is important to lift up our communities and to be active in helping other people. I am grateful to work for an organization like JDI that has enabled me to be part of so many amazing fundraising efforts, supporting the community that I’ve called home my entire life. I hope that my grandchildren will see the importance of being kind to one another,” she says.

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Trish Shepherd has been a member of our team for 18 years. She is an active member of the community efforts the Finance team does each year to support those in need. She helps raise funds for Bowl for Kids Sake, PALS Christmas Families and has been a Virtual Reading Buddy with Prince Charles School, Volunteers with the Romero House, and Saint John Food Bank. As if that is not enough, Trish and her husband Todd have been foster parents for almost 22 years and have given much needed support to 31 children in that time.

Trish and her husband became foster parents when her in-laws were retiring from fostering and they had a foster son that had been with the family for over a year, they couldn’t stand to see him go anywhere else so he moved in with Trish, her husband, and their daughter. “The reason why we have continued to foster is that I grew up in tough environment, there was no one that cheered me on, and it became a driving force to make my life better,” says Trish. Trish and Todd currently have 6 boys in their home ranging from ages 5-13. “Children that have come in and out of our home know that within those four walls they were loved, cared for, safe and there were people that pushed them to be best that they can be.  Not all our past kids are successful, but many of them are.  It’s funny to see some of our old kids having kids.  It was even funnier when one little one called me Nanny Trish.  I know that Todd and I are making a difference in the children who walk through our doors.”

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Construction & Equipment Division

"For over a decade Angela Goedhard has been steadily adding tools to her toolbox as a production supervisor. She is now among the most versatile, respected, and experienced operators or all at Irving Wallboard," says Troy MacMillan, Human Resources Business Partner at Irving Wallboard when asked about Angela. Angela continuously steps up in her role by helping with countless projects, serving on committees, and becoming a trainer in several areas. She is also one of the longest serving relief supervisors and a Call 1 Relief CNG Operator on the Irving Wallboard team. Most of Angela's time at the plant is served training and mentoring new operators as they begin their careers. Angela's most recent undertaking was a Six Sigma Green Belt project in which the scope was to improve the management, efficiency, and safety of the onsite natural rock inventory. Angela is a woman who continues to break barriers and inspires others to do the same!


Irving Personal Care

Elizabeth Gibson is very active in her community. She volunteered for three years with the Strong Communities Campaign for the YMCA of Greater Saint John, a campaign focused on raising funds to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to participate in the programming offered by the YMCA. This includes subsidizing their childcare program and allowing kids to attend the overnight camp at Camp Glenburn in Kingston, New Brunswick.

Elizabeth is an inspiration to women and girls in the workplace and the community. In 2018 and 2019, she organized a STEM Program for the Partners Assisting Local Schools (PALS) for Grade 4 girls. She recruited a group of J.D. Irving female engineers to join her in organizing different activities to promote an interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. They mentored the group of young girls to follow their aspirations in non-normative career opportunities, such as Engineering and Medicine.

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Irving Shipbuilding

Meet Kaitlyn Veitch, Supply Chain Manager at Irving Shipbuilding. Kaitlyn is originally from Innisfil, Ontario but thinks of herself as an honorary East Coster, living east for 11 years now. In early 2021, Kaitlyn and a few other team members launched a group at the shipyard called "Women Making Waves" with the intent to support and empower the 30+ women working with Irving Shipbuilding's Supply Chain team. "We piloted some impactful sessions that covered topics such as inequitable impacts of the pandemic and gender gaps within the shipbuilding industry," says Kaitlyn, whose group had so much success that interest and support from across the business quickly enabled them to broaden their reach.

Currently in the process of initiating a site-wide employee resource group with representation across the diverse trades, demographics and cultures, Kaitlyn is grateful for the opportunity to learn from so many unique women in her role as Chair of Women Making Waves. "Our work is just beginning and I cannot wait to continue empowering women through connection, inspiration, and community."

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Pulp & Paper Division

Allison Bent is a shining example of a strong and focused female engineer, confident in the abilities she has spent years developing, and refusing to back down from an industry that is primarily dominated by men. Her journey as a JDI employee began in university when she first accepted a process engineering student position at the Irving Paper mill.

With an unmistakable enthusiasm for her job and the projects she was participating in, Allison was able to gain a tremendous amount of work experience over the course of four student work terms – the most notable of which being her time spent at Lake Utopia Paper. At the time Lake Utopia was in need of a Safety Advisor, and although Allison was not as familiar with the scope of such a role, this didn’t stop her from volunteering herself for the position.

“Even if a role doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of an engineering position, possessing an engineering mindset is still a very powerful asset that will help you achieve whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish,” said Allison.

Allison has gone on to be featured in Pulp & Paper Canada’s magazine for her significant contributions to the Hazard Identification Program, an initiative developed to proactively address health and safety concerns long before they can become an issue. Today, she is a critical figure in the successful execution of multiple high-profile projects at the Irving Pulp & Paper mill, where here drive and passion for all that she does continues to shine through as bright as ever.

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Retail Division

Alexa Dixon is a District Human Resources Business Partner with our Kent Building Supplies team. She is grateful for the opportunity her role has given her to work alongside some really amazing people. One thing that is really important to Alexa is helping her team grow and giving everyone an opportunity to excel. Alexa is the lead for Kent with Ready, Willing, and Able, a national partnership that is designed to increase the labour force participation of people with intellectual disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). "Working with Ready, Willing and Able has been so amazing, the organization has allowed Kent to hire some hardworking, dedicated associates who come to work with a can do attitude and a smile. The representatives from New Brunswick Association for Community Living and RWA are passionate about the program and have worked with us to ensure a very smooth transition from candidate to associate. I highly recommend the program and am truly pleased with the partnership between RWA and Kent," says Alexa about working with RWA and the hires from the program.  

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Sawmill Division

Joanie Soucy is a Human Resources Administrator and Recruiter with our Sawmills & Woodlands Division in Northern New Brunswick. When asked who she would consider as a female role model, Joanie mentioned that she does not have a specific person but "I think that ever women in a leadership position or in a non-traditional skilled-trade position is pretty inspiring. I think seeing more of these great women leaders will help us make even more progress."

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Kimberly Tepper grew up watching her father own and operate his own farm and she was inspired to someday follow in his footsteps and be a business professional. "I am proud to see that the number of women in business, specifically in our type of operation, is growing," says Kimberly.


Transportation & Logistics Division

Meet Colleen Dunwoody, a St. George native who spends her time managing the operations of our Ports & Costal Division with Atlantic Towing. Colleen is an esteemed leader with Atlantic Towing, with over 20 years of experience in the marine transportation industry, providing health, safety & compliance, crew, and training management. She began her career as a seafarer and later transitioned to the office, where she has held several positions of increasing responsibility with great success. When asked what advice she would give to someone who might want to follow in her footsteps, Colleen notes the importance of routine, "establish a good morning routine, practice gratitude, meditate, be kind and caring, and set your bar HIGH."

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Aleah Voutour is a leader with the JDI Logistics team, joining the group as an analyst in 2017 and promoted to lead the Carrier Management team last year. Some of her most recent achievements include being on the honour roll for her CITT designation, preparing for her Lean Belt defense, as well as participating in our in-house offered Leadership Fundamentals Program. "My best advice would be to put yourself out of your comfort zone, collaborate, an be confident," says Aleah about what she would say to someone looking to her as a mentor.  

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Our Transportation & Logistics Division is a group that thrives on Continuous Improvement, and no one knows that like Helen Ocampo, Business Improvement Analyst, who supports the ten unique transportation businesses to execute projects, streamline process and optimize operations. "I've always been passionate about regulatory compliance, sustainability, continuous improvement and project management," says Helen. She holds a Bachelor in Science in Chemical Engineering, a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and a Certified ISO 9001:2015 Internal Quality Auditor designation. "When I face challenges, I always tell myself I cannot "not do it" in order to push myself. Not giving something a try will never allow you to find out how capable you are."

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As a leader with the Universal Truck & Trailer team in Dieppe, Michelle Biddington keeps people in the know and leverages her own background as an Automotive Red Seal to better understand and communicate with her team. Michelle is a vital member of the UTT team and is known for her positive outlook and drive to work hard everyday. An Apohaqui, NB native, Michelle is currently the Truck Service Team Lead and encourages people to go after what they want, "Push through to achiever what you set out to do, it can be hard but it will be worth it."

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Laying, repairing and maintaining track is no easy feat! Nominated as an example of an inspirational woman by her HR Director, Shelley Seaman is a dedicated team member at NB Southern Railway. Working in a field that is traditionally male-dominated, she is a trailblazer and a great example for anyone looking to make a change in their career path. "From a very young age I knew hard work and challenging endeavors were right up my alley. I enjoy working on projects that involve teamwork where we can all enjoy the completion of a task," says Shelley. Shelley started her career with NBSR at 42 years old, highlighting that the people who she works with are one of the best parts of her job. "Do the things that challenge you. Not everything in life is comfortable and easy. Step out and give it all you've got."

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Woodlands Division

Maggie Gray was one of the first students to graduate from the Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW), a partnership between J.D. Irving, Limited, New Boots, and the Government of New Brunswick. Since joining JDI full-time in 2020, Maggie has gone above and beyond in her role at the Sussex Woodlands garage to uplift the workforce by building relationships. Be they technicians, employees, supervisors, operators, or security guards, no one is left out. Maggie is always engaged, happy, and full of energy, qualities that her teammates find contagious! As an apprentice, the more senior and experienced technicians look forward to and fight for the opportunity to work with her. Since beginning her career, she has been a sponge for knowledge, always eager to learn the trade and expand her skills.  

Maggie enjoys helping young women get into trades by working hard to share her experience as much as possible as an advocate for non-traditional careers for women. She does this through participating in online seminars to discuss how she got into trades. She looks forward to lessened COVID-19 restrictions that will allow her to give more talks and presentations in person. Maggie also brings her advocacy into her time off: she has recently been working on her own time to get another young woman into the co-op program she participated in at the Sussex garage, and into the apprenticeship program. She knows that by encouraging women to follow in her footsteps, the provincial trades workforce can be expanded and diversified, and more women can feel comfortable stepping into "new boots" in a non-traditional field. 

"I think it's so important to support young women in the trades because it's such an empowering position to be in! Being a young female in a male-dominated trade, mostly older men, can be intimidating at times but it can also be so rewarding. Young women need help and support to push through the stigma and to realize their own potential and how fulfilling these jobs can be!" says Maggie.

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