Point of Beginning

New Land Surveyor Makes Sask. History

August 20, 2007

Although it's rare to hear of a "first female" anything anymore, Jill Cheverie has unintentionally found herself a place in the history books.

On Monday, Cheverie became the first woman to hold the commission of Saskatchewan Land Surveyor. Cheverie received her education at the University of New Brunswick, one of only two schools in Canada offering the required engineering speciality.

As her graduating class consisted of five women and four men, Cheverie didn't expect her gender would make her unique in the field.

"It wasn't something really in the forefront of my mind at any point," she said. "It was kind of a nice little surprise, I guess."

The east-coaster came to the province along with her fiancée, who took the same training as her, and who now also works as a land surveyor at the same office of Midwest Surveys in Maple Creek.

Cheverie joins 64 other surveyors registered through the Saskatchewan Land Surveyor's Association (SLSA), all of whom are male. She's received a welcome reception among her peers, especially because land surveyors are in high demand in the province, she said.

That's part of the significance of Cheverie's appointment to the SLSA, according to its executive director, Carl Shiels. With the Baby Boom bubble heading to retirement, attracting new members from all demographics is important, he said.

"Many of our sister associations across the country have had ladies getting into the profession for quite some time," he said.

"So we're anxious to demonstrate we're a profession that's open to all demographic groups." While training for the profession is rigorous -- requiring a university degree, practical work under a mentor, completion of a large project and the taking of six exams -- the low profile of the profession is to blame for its difficulty in attracting new blood, Shiels said.

He hopes Cheverie's addition will help attract other women to the field.

While in the past the profession was dominated by men largely due to its physical demands, technology has changed much of that, Shiels said.

"There was a day when the commissioned surveyor himself was out lugging around a lot of heavy equipment," he explained. "Nowadays, the professional surveyor is typically supervising a field crew or a number of field crews ... For the most part, between ATVs and global positioning systems and so on, there's no reason modern-day women can't handle it quite comfortably."

While a few heads may turn simply because of the novelty, Cheverie won't experience any difficulties due to her gender, he added.

"The people who are in the profession right now are of my generation -- I'm 61 years old," Shiels said. "Our daughters have educated us very well on the way the new world works and should work."

The demand for land surveyors is high, as they are the only ones with the scientific and legal training required to create property boundaries or determine where existing ones are. They are the only ones authorized to carve land into city blocks and lots, for example.

Her years of training behind her, Cheverie was excited to officially sign her first plan yesterday. "It's kind of funny, because we're leaving (today) to go home to the Maritimes to get married," she said. "So Carl at the SLSA office gave me a seal just for this week with my name, because as soon as I go home to get married it's going to change. So it was kind of exciting to be able to get to sign a plan in my maiden name."

Source: The Leader-Post (Regina), August 15, 2007.