SaskTel Women in Power Spotlight – Florence Peterson

SaskTel Women in Power Spotlight – Florence Peterson

April 18, 2023

Florence Peterson

Pictured is Florence and her son Todd celebrating her 95th birthday this year.

Florence Peterson is a trailblazer. She was the first female member of the Board of Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel) from 1972 to 1981.

She recently celebrated her 95th birthday, and still vividly recalls her time working with SaskTel.

“I loved the work I did because I was helping people and was treated so well by the men and women I was blessed to work with,” Florence said. “It was hard because I had to be better prepared than the men, until they knew I was all business. There were a lot of women that worked at SaskTel, as I understand is still the case to this day, but it was challenging as the only woman on the Board.”

Florence’s first involvement with SaskTel started in 1948 when she was hired as a Telephone Operator in Saskatoon. She worked in that position briefly before transferring to the Town of Biggar which led to her being the Chief Operator.

“Then I met my husband, we got married, had children, and I thought that was the end of my time at SaskTel,” she said.

In the 1960’s Florence watched as SaskTel introduced direct distance dialing, eliminating the need for operators to handle all long-distance calls; 7,000 previously unserved rural customers received telephone service for the first time; and push button or “touchtone” phones became available.

Florence said she was impressed by SaskTel’s growth and often reflected fondly on the experience she gained with the company.

Then, in the early 1970’s Florence was advised that the Board of Saskatchewan Telecommunications was looking for a new member. Friends, community members and previous colleagues all encouraged her to pursue the opportunity.

“The SaskTel union and others put my name forward because of my balanced view and leadership on customers, employees and the business and I thought ‘well you know what, I will give it a go’,” she said. “It helped that I knew the telco business, customer service, importance of employees, the lingo and acronyms. That, in conjunction with the support, mentoring and coaching from General Manager Gil McCormick, my confidence grew, and I was able to put my mark on the organization, Saskatchewan, and be myself.”

Although Florence said she values the respect she received from her fellow board members, she is most thankful for how much she learned about the industry.

“Those were exciting times!” she exclaimed. “SaskTel was a world leader in fibre optic innovation, deployment, rural sustainability, modernization and digitization. I knew that was important for education, business, growth, employment, agriculture, competitive advantage, sovereignty, Nation building, prosperity, quality of life and community!”

Looking back on her career, Florence said she attributes much of her success to her family’s gritty influence.

At the turn of the 19th century her parents, aunts and uncles fled prosperous farms in Odessa Ukraine, for similar situations that Ukraine faces today. They overcame many challenges and were happy to finally settle in the Town of Macklin, Saskatchewan.

“That taught me the value of determination,” she said.

With her family’s history top of mind, Florence said she was influenced to join the Board because of SaskTel’s longtime commitment to improving quality of life in Saskatchewan. She was dedicated to helping make that a reality - even if she had to be the first to break through glass ceilings to achieve it.

“When it comes down to it, I am very proud to have been on that board,” she said. “For any women looking to advance their careers my advice is to show a big interest. Be a good listener, lean in, put your mark on your work deeply, have fun and learn as much as you can about your field. People will respect you for that.”

Through the Representative Workforce Strategy, SaskTel is committed to having a workforce that is reflective of the province we serve, including women in underrepresented occupations.

Today, in-part because of Florence’s trailblazing efforts, SaskTel is proud to have women’s representation on its current Board of Directors nearly balanced with its male members.

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