ICL is proud to announce that one of our employees, Victoria Tosh (Vic), has been chosen to attend the prestigious Women of the Year Lunch and Awards in London, England. This is a fantastic achievement as the awards “handpicks” women from all over the world in recognition of their personal contribution to society.
Vic has been nominated for her professional achievements and for her efforts to recruit more women into a male-dominated field. She is a Safety Advisor covering ICL Boulby, England Mining, the Surface Process, and Tees Dock operations mine as well as two other locations. She works daily to ensure the safety of our mining and operational teams as they perform their essential work deep inside the earth.
Vic has been with us for 14 years. She started in the Environment Department before moving to Safety where she has remained for the last 12 years. She is currently driving forward the GOARC system across all sites as well as defining and refining the process while helping to iron out some of the glitches we have encountered. She offers the workforce guidance and practical assistance on all aspects of safety, in particular the use of technology.
Meet Our People: Vic Tosh at work
Vic explains the uses and benefits of GOARC
We sat down with Vic to discuss her nomination and to gain insight into the difference she makes every day as Safety Officer at ICL. We also spoke with Dave Mcluckie, External Affairs Manager, to gain insight into her contributions to ICL.
Vic, how do you feel after having been nominated for a prestigious award for your commitment to the safety of ICL’s mining teams as a woman in a male-dominated field?
“I feel very honored. It’s a massive honor when you see the kind of women that I will be sitting in the room with, these extraordinary women who are changing worlds. I am blown away, honestly.”
Did you ever think you would be nominated for such an award as the Woman of the Year? How does it feel?
“No. Absolutely not. When I heard about this I nearly fell off my chair. It’s extraordinary the way the awards are set up. Every woman who is nominated is as a woman of the year so we all get the moniker when we walk into that lunch. And then you have this amazing lunch and you have these amazing women who are doing extraordinary things and you have the main big award. These women are literally changing the world. When I think about being in that room with these women, that’s the biggest honor. But to sit in the same room as them and to be recognized alongside them? That’s extraordinary and I am incredibly grateful and honored to be in that room.”
Do you encounter people day to day who are surprised by what you do?
“Yes. Outside of the company, when people ask what I do, there is a level of surprise that I’m working in a mine. Even if I were a man, people are a bit taken aback by that. It seems like a very 1950s job.”
What is your favorite thing about being in the mine?
“The calmness of it all. I get ready in the morning to go into the pit and I get into the cage and as the cage travels down, nobody tends to turn their light on when going in. So for the first 30-45 seconds, it is completely dark. For that six to seven-minute ride in, everything just drifts away. Everything calms down, my brain, my heart, and by the time I step out of the cage at pit bottom, I’ve got nowhere to be but where I’m going. I’ve got nothing to do but what I’m doing. Everything is just about safety. It’s about the guys I’m going to be interacting with, it’s about those areas, those safe working areas, conversation and engagement and just being there to answer those questions, to be that sounding board for the guys.”
How do you feel your nomination impacts women?
“There aren’t enough women in this industry or in industry in general. We have no female apprentices in the mine and that is something I want to change. If some girl who is doing her exams, some 16-year-old or 12-year-old or 18-year-old thinks, ‘I can’t be in mining or in industry,’ if it changes the mindset of just one person, then I think it’s all worthwhile. My hope is that it at least just changes someone’s mindset. Even just one person.”
Hearing about going so far down in the mine could turn some people off, right?
“It’s different than you might think. Coal miners call us Hollywood miners. That’s because we have big wide roadways, it’s very well lit and clean with a very big footprint underground. When you are at pit bottom and you’re going to the poly panels, it will take you 20-25 minutes in a personal carrier which is like a transit van because it’s a long way. It’s a lot of travel involved once you’re in the mine. You’d be surprised. It doesn’t feel claustrophobic at all.”
What obstacles or challenges have you faced in your career to accomplish the level of success you have? Were there any obstacles unique to being a woman?
“I think yes, but I am quite obstinate. I pushed my way into this job. I pushed my way into the safety team. When I was offered the job the support I have had from my team has been amazing. Until very recently that was all men. So, I had a very positive male influence on my career once I went into safety. But within that, yes, I have probably had to push a lot harder but it’s not something I have particularly noticed because I can be pushy anyway. I have been very lucky with the men I have connected with at work. I have been very well supported in an extremely positive way. The previous managing director of ICL, Andrew Fulton, was amazing, he was an amazing influence on me, made me feel very capable of doing anything.”
There aren’t many women in this industry. Do you think that can change?
“What worries me always is women coming into the industry. We have women going out, but not many coming in. The challenge is to change those numbers.”
What advice would you give to young women inspired to work in a male-dominated field?
“The first thing I would say is that you can do anything you set your mind to. People will throw barriers in your way because that’s the way the world works, what you should never do is put barriers in your own way. There is enough out there telling you you can’t do it. Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. Always tell yourself that you can. Just keep going. Believe me, the world is kinder than we think, people are kinder than we give them credit for. There is a lot going on in the world, but in general, people are good eggs most of the time. I think just focus on the good, and try not to focus on the bad. Just keep going. Believe in yourself. Don’t put barriers in your own way and trust the women around you because they will hold you up. Also, trust the good men because they will also hold you up.”
How has ICL been pivotal in your career success and facilitated your growth?
“They have supported everything I have ever wanted to do from a training point-of-view. They put me through the NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) certification. Everything has always been good and positive in terms of the meetings I have had, the interactions I have had, that’s with people in Israel, the American guys, and girls, and our teams in Amsterdam. We often say that Boulby is a family. That’s what it feels like. When you’ve been here for five minutes that’s what it feels like. It feels like you’re a family when you’re here. I think ICL is like a family. Family is at the core of what ICL is about. I know it is at the core of what Boulby is about.”
What do you like to do in your spare time to give back to the community?
“We have a group where I live that has organized beach cleans on a monthly basis and I do that. I have done some mentoring for a friend. One of the guys who works here has a friend who was floundering and looking for apprenticeships and we had some chats and a meeting and she is now sorted and she’s got a mechanical apprenticeship. Of all the things I have ever done I feel this is the biggest tick in the box because all she needed was some encouragement and support and off she’s gone and now she’s doing really well.”
Do you want to tell us about your family? How do they play a role in your success?
“My family, we all play music and I spend a lot of time at my sons’ gigs and my husband is also in a band and I play guitar so music is a big part of our life.
I have two boys. Max and Finn. Max is 25 and Finn is 23 this year. My boys are good boys.
My sister is a clinical psychologist, my other sister was a senior lecturer in cardiothoracics. I have very strong and clever siblings. My mum was a social worker for a long time. We have that influence on us. To see that my mum worked at a time when things weren’t as good as they are now for women… she had to push, she had to be incredibly strong within the working environment that she was in. So we all had that positive view of how women are in the workplace and I am very pleased to be in it myself.”
What was a major influence for you to choose going into this field?
“At the time the management team, when I started with safety, we were looking to get accredited for ISO 18001 safety accreditation, which is very difficult for a mine to get. I was brought in to do some admin and help and I found it fascinating and I loved the idea of influencing someone’s health and wellbeing knowing that what you were doing actually meant there was a positive outcome, like the fact that you see they came in with ten fingers and ten toes and then went home with all of them. I also had a really positive team around me. My manager at the time and the deputy manager created a very positive environment. And mining is just wicked cool, so who wouldn’t want to do it?”
We then spoke with Dave Mcluckie, External Affairs Manager, about working with Vic.
What has been your experience working with Vic?
“It is important for me to say what Vic brings to us. She’s an asset to the mine in so many different ways. She has been a massive driving force in changing our view because we built everything for men. Even visitors’ accommodations were for men. We used to ship women out to a different building. We weren’t doing this deliberately, it was just how it was. Vic was the powerhouse around saying this isn’t acceptable. I want to have proper showers rather than this cubicle in another building. When we created this small group of people, we looked at welfare facilities in many ways, we looked at how we can attract more female operatives to the mine. We have made changes to accommodate females in the facilities, such as private facilities. With the help of Vic, we’ve changed that and installed showers for females. We have shower facilities in the same building for women. There is now parity and respect.
Vic’s part of the team and the biggest accolade I can give her is that we are in team management and the guys that sit and work with her, they don’t think of her as a woman in the job. They think of her as doing the job. They’re not looking around saying there is a woman. They simply see Vic doing the role that she is exceptionally competent and capable of doing. She can vibe with the rest of us. She can tell a joke and take a joke and handle bait table banter she can put you down faster than Muhammad Ali. She is part and parcel of everything that we are. The sky’s the limit for what Vic can achieve. She should rightfully be proud, but she is nowhere near as proud as our pride in her.”