Not all leaders come with a title and Julie Hawco shows us how true this is.

Julie Hawco, Specialist Development Engineer, In Situ, is a 2023 recipient of the Young Women in Energy (YWE) award and named as one of 10 inspirational young women leading Alberta’s evolving energy landscape.

“I was surprised to receive the award because I’m not in an official leadership position,” says Julie Hawco.  However, it stands as a testament that true leadership is defined by actions, impact and dedication rather than titles alone.”

Julie has spent the past 15 years working in Canada’s energy sector as an engineer focused on oil sands technology and innovation. At Suncor, she manages projects to develop in situ oil sands technologies and leads the program to commercialize in situ solvent technologies for operating assets.

“She is a gifted leader who brings together teams to facilitate discussions to find common ground. Julie is an excellent role model for young engineers and is a positive influence on those fortunate enough to work with her,” says Chris Dilger, Director of Engineering.

Beyond her professional achievements, Julie is a mom of two young girls and is a dedicated advocate for diversity and inclusion. 

Julie with her husband and two daughters. They are standing on a rope bridge in the middle of a green forest.
Julie on a trip with her family

Her passion was stirred by her own experience as a new mother working in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career. “When I transitioned from a professional to a working parent I hit a lot of barriers,” she says. “My goal is that my daughters don’t ever have to spend time worrying about the experiences that I went through.”

Not one to back down from a problem, Julie channelled her frustration into a passion project. In 2022, she founded the STEM Moms Project, an initiative focused on supporting women in STEM careers. “As we would do for an engineering problem, I conducted a root cause analysis to understand if parenthood was a factor to mid-career women leaving their STEM jobs,” she says.

Over one year, Julie hosted 15 discussions to understand the unique challenges faced by her female versus male peers once they became parents. “I wrote a report on all the discussions and came up with actions for allies — recommendations for improving the retention of mid-career STEM women.”

Julie’s report was recently accepted at the Canadian Science Policy Conference and she was invited to speak about it as part of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Symposium.

She shares that she’s excited to use the platform of being a YWE award recipient to further expand her network which she can use to help others. “I am committed to creating a more inclusive industry which is vital for the success and sustainability of the energy sector,” she says.

Nine women from the STEM MOMs Project sitting around an orange table for a breakfast meet up.
Julie Hawco hosts a STEM MOMs Project group breakfast meet up in downtown Calgary.