With her promotion to president of Squamish Terminals in 2016, Kim Stegeman-Lowe broke through the glass ceiling as the first female president of a terminal in the Pacific Northwest.
It was a remarkable achievement, especially in an industry typically dominated by men. The deep-water, break-bulk facility at the north end of Howe Sound was owned by a Norwegian company and had a progressive workforce that was 25% female, including forklift and crane operators, first aid attendants and logistics professionals.
But along the Pacific Coast, there simply weren’t many women in waterfront executive roles.
“Things were changing, and it was partly because our owners at the time were female,” explains Stegeman-Lowe. “If you see females in leadership roles, that often paves the way. The Norwegian culture is ahead of its time. We have a lot to learn from them.”
During the decade she worked there, Stegeman-Lowe led by example, becoming a role model for other women in the industry while helping to recruit more women to the waterfront.
“We didn’t have quotas,” she says. “We just hired the right person for the job, and many were women.”
When Western Stevedoring, a division of Western Group, bought the terminal in 2018, Stegeman-Lowe was thrilled. The company had a reputation for supporting its people, including mental health and employee assistance policies, which would allow her to continue to advocate for women, minorities, Indigenous peoples, and those with different abilities.
Stegeman-Lowe quickly transitioned to vice president of people and sustainability for Western Group, which is essential in connecting global trade to Canada’s marine, rail and road serviced transportation corridors.
“I believe diversity makes us stronger,” she says. “But just hiring someone isn’t the end of it. We need to ask, is the workplace equitable and fair? Does everyone feel included?”
As an advisor of the Waterfront Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council, Stegeman-Lowe is helping to ensure the answer is “yes.”
The Council includes representatives from more than 10 of the largest terminal employers and operators in British Columbia. Its members are actively developing an inclusive and supportive work environment on B.C.’s waterfront.
That includes a rigorous audit process that identifies discrimination and bias, establishing allyship awareness and education, and creating a case for change through intentional data collection.
Under Stegeman-Lowe’s dutiful watch and with strong support from the Executive team, Western Group and its divisions are actively recruiting a more representative workforce from various cultural communities and school apprentice programs. This is in concert with ongoing DEI priorities to embed organizational values of fair representation, treatment, and opportunity for all employees.
Stegeman-Lowe also takes time to speak in the community about being a woman in a waterfront leadership role in hopes of attracting a better gender mix.
“We have a DEI council because we’re not there yet,” she describes. “But we have so many opportunities for skills training and learning on the job. There’s something for everyone.”
Dave Lucas, President of Western Stevedoring and member of the Waterfront DEI Council, says Stegeman-Lowe is a tireless champion of under-represented groups, especially at the senior levels.
“Not only does she lead by example, but Kim also helps build the connections to make our waterfront workforce reflect the talented people who live in this province and ensures they feel supported,” says Lucas.
Stegeman-Lowe, who began her career in hospitality and tourism, has found her home on the waterfront. It’s enormously satisfying, she says, to work for an industry that makes a difference in Canadians’ quality of life.
“As I learned the business, I fell in love with it,” she says. “We are part of the fabric of Canada, and the pandemic showed us how essential the supply chain is in our daily lives. We simply couldn’t do it without trade.”
Stegeman-Lowe learned a strong sense of purpose from her mother, a single-parent and successful entrepreneur. Now, Stegeman-Lowe hopes to pass that inspiration to her two daughters.
“I’ve earned the right to be here, and I hope they feel the same,” she says. “I want them to know they can achieve whatever they want with their lives and make the world a better place.”