Calgary archaeologist advocating for more women to join the industry
A Calgary archaeologist is advocating for change in hopes of attracting more women to the field.
Margarita de Guzman has been an archaeologist for more than 20 years and is currently the managing director of Circle CRM Group.
De Guzman says she started the archaeology and heritage consulting business in 2010 because she wanted to create her own potential and turn her passion for discovery into a sustainable career.
“Archaeology is government regulated by each province. So the Historical Resources Act in Alberta, for example, says that developers have to ensure that they are not impacting any significant archaeology,” de Guzman says.
“They have to have regulatory approval and if there is a potential for it to impact archaeology, then we have to go out in the field and assess that for them.”
Turning passion into a career
Archaeologists are consulted during the early planning stages of all kinds of developments across the province.
“What I love about it is the joy that I get from discovery. So we just love finding things,” de Guzman says.
“As a profession, archaeology is really great because it gives you a lot of variety, you’re outside a lot, which everyone knows is so beneficial for both your physical and your mental health.”
Despite those benefits, de Guzman says it can be difficult for female archaeologists, in particular, to sustain a career.
While there is female representation in the industry, de Guzman says it is traditionally male-dominated and that she has witnessed many women leave archaeology after five to 10 years.
“As an employer, I have seen women less reluctant to ask for raises, ask for promotions… I think it’s still inherent in women, especially in our younger women—the lower confidence, the imposter syndrome, things like that,” she says.
She says many women in her field have trouble maintaining their career because they’re away from home a lot; sometimes for two to three weeks at a time.
“And so it’s really difficult to maintain relationships, it’s really difficult if you want to have a family and you’re a primary caregiver, and it’s really difficult if you have a family and you have limited support.”
Being part of the change
De Guzman says she has been fortunate in her career and has not personally encountered a lot of the issues that many other women who work in the field experience.
“I come from a family of strong women and they would pretty much never let me tell myself that I wasn’t good enough, or not try hard enough for something. My superpower is grit, so I just kind of work my butt off,” she says.
Part of the reason de Guzman wanted to start her own archaeology consulting business was to impact the change she wants to see in the industry.
“I’m able to decide what my potential is and I’m able to create potential for other people. And that’s part of the reason I love being a business owner, is that I can do that. I can take away people’s limiting beliefs, hopefully,” she says.
Recently, de Guzman took her advocacy even further and launched the Fair Field Foundation, a first-of-its-kind social enterprise dedicated to supporting and celebrating female archaeologists.
“In our early days, when it was just an idea, we were calling it the Female Archaeology Foundation. But we didn’t want to limit it to women and we didn’t want to limit it to archaeology,” de Guzman says.
“We have some big dreams here that [the foundation] could help with inclusivity and diversity for lots of different groups, and perhaps into different industries.”
Overhauling the industry
For now, the Fair Field Foundation will focus on helping young women know that a long-term career in archaeology is possible and that there are future opportunities in the industry that won’t involve leaving home for weeks at a time.
De Guzman says the industry needs to change from the inside out and that mental health needs to be put first, with a focus on more in-office, management, and administrative opportunities.
“We really need the industry to expand to be able to support archaeology as a professional career for more and more people,” she says, adding that archaeology departments have been slimming down across Canada, the US, and the UK.
“When we look at a lot of the other environmental disciplines, archaeology is kind of the bottom of the barrel.”
De Guzman wants to see the archaeology industry grow and diversify.
“If the industry can expand and support more archaeologists, that’s going to create more opportunities for longevity, for people to get out of the field and enter management positions, administrative positions, and it also applies to museums and academia.”
The Fair Field Foundation aims to provide mentorship opportunities with fellow female archaeologists to help guide others through the industry.
To celebrate the foundation’s launch, a virtual discussion is taking place on Jan. 25 called Paths to Success: Reflections from Women in Archaeology.