Breaking Barriers: Cortney Banks, Area Manager at Irving Shipbuilding

In recognition of International Women's Day, we sat down with Cortney Banks in her new position as Area Manager at Woodside Industries and Marine Fabricators. Cortney is opening doors in Canadian Shipbuilding as one of the first women in her role. We discussed her journey at Irving Shipbuilding, as well as this year’s theme for International Women’s Day: Choose To Challenge.

Born and raised in Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, Cortney is the daughter of a fisherman and grew up on the water, around the water, and on boats. Cortney attended Memorial University of Newfoundland and earned her bachelor's degree in Ocean and Naval architectural engineering, a very fitting degree for Cortney. “I looked at the degree and I was like ‘combine my two favorite things: math and boats’, there could not have been a more perfect degree made for me”, says Cortney.

Following graduation, Cortney moved to Houston, Texas to work in the offshore energy industry for several years, before returning to Nova Scotia. She joined Irving Shipbuilding in 2017 as a Systems Engineer team, eventually taking on the role of Functional Engineer.

Soon after joining Irving Shipbuilding, Cortney became involved in labelling equipment on the HCMS Harry DeWolf.

“We had not labeled the ship. All the equipment on the ship needs a label, so I took it on ran with it, and lead that project for 10 months. That experience really opened doors and put me in the running for the Leadership Development Program, which I am now a part of.

It is a really good program, and a great peer network. We’re offered great training opportunities and exposure to executive leadership and skills required to be able to take on leadership roles within the company.”

Following Cortney’s experience of being what she affectionately calls the “Label Queen”, she decided to shift gears to production, with her eyes on the Area Manager position.

“When I was pushing for this role and decided to make the leap over to production…you want to be the person who kicks those doors down and hope that other people walk through them. It has been amazing, I have zero regrets. It is one of the best career moves I have made and it has only been three weeks. I am loving it. “

On the theme #ChooseToChallenge:

Can you describe your experience working in a role that is predominantly male dominated?

"I am not going to say that it is without its challenges. It is, but I like it a lot. There have been challenges along the way, but they make you grow."

As a leader at Irving Shipbuilding, How do you choose to challenge yourself and those around you?

“To truly learn socially, I feel like you have to be uncomfortable sometimes. You have to put yourself in what you consider a challenging situation to really understand and learn. I truly believe there is a balance to that. I try to push myself the right amount. I don’t always find that balance, but that’s what life is, the journey. I try to challenge myself in a lot of ways at work, in learning, in social situations. I have worked really hard to get where I am.”

“I will happily discuss challenges that I have. I am very vocal; I am not afraid to say something. I recognize though that not every woman will. When I am leading a team, it is important to me that they know that if they are experiencing any trouble, discrimination, barriers, that it is important that they tell me. Even if they are not going to go to bat, I will go to bat on their behalf. I think the environment is getting better. As we gain more diversity…it is less of a challenge.”


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