March 9, 2023 - International Women's Day this year comes amid a critical juncture for the industry.
The last few years have seen no shrinkage in the range of negative social and environmental impacts mining is seen as responsible for, particularly in under-regulated jurisdictions. However, extreme climate events in this time period, often also in remoter parts of the world, made it clear that it will be impossible to achieve ambitious climate targets without a sustainable supply of critical minerals.
Women are still vastly underrepresented in mining operations, management positions, and technical roles, and face various barriers and challenges, including discrimination, harassment, and a lack of support for work-life balance.
Mining majors should mark this International Women's Day by changing discriminatory practices and structures to hire more young women. And this is not just good for the environment, but also for business.
Studies have shown that companies with diverse workforces are more innovative, more productive, and more profitable. By promoting gender diversity, mining majors can tap into the full potential of their workforce and gain a competitive advantage.
By promoting gender diversity, mining majors can also help to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture, which can benefit all employees.
With many experienced workers nearing retirement age and few young people choosing mining as a career, by promoting mining careers to young women, mining majors can tap into a new talent pool and help to address the industry's skills shortage, in digitalisation and elsewhere.
Those seeking change are swimming against a strong tide: Recent trends and developments are dire and underscore the urgent need for the mining industry to address issues of gender equity and workplace culture.
The events of 2020 in this context were a watershed moment. We not only had the emergence of the Rio Tinto sex FIFO controversy, a female mining engineer in Canada also revealed a culture of gender discrimination she was subjected to, including inappropriate comments and behaviour from male colleagues.
These highlight that talk of "social licence" and "net-zero" will be for nothing if mining doesn't embrace diversity and inclusion as core values, and take concrete steps to promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
To mark International Women's Day, Mining Magazine took a snapshot of the situation through asking for comments by some leading mining and mining services companies:
From Shameelta Pratap, group executive of Transformation, People & Communication at Thiess:
At Thiess, we're aware that despite ongoing progress, women remain under-represented throughout the mining industry. International Women's Day serves as an important reminder to foster a culture of inclusion amongst our colleagues.
We're working to boost gender diversity across our global workforce. In 2022, Thiess aimed to increase female participation by 20% compared to 2021, and exceeded this with 22.7%.
We've done this through numerous initiatives, including our Sisters in Mining program. Launched in 2013, the program has supported 75 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women complete training to kickstart their mining careers, with around 90% having been offered employment at Thiess. This year, we'll expand the program to maintenance trades through a 12-month pre-apprenticeship programme.
From International Council on Mining and Metals chief executive, Rohitesh Dhawan
On International Women's Day ICMM is asking the question - how can we make the mining industry truly diverse, equitable and inclusive? Part of answer is to acknowledge the role that we as current leaders have played in not prioritising change fast enough, and then take bold steps to change that reality for the better.
We've already started this process by updating our Mining Principles - which are a commitment of membership - to include actions to eliminate harassment and discrimination, proactive steps to achieve gender equality and participation of all peoples, and to cement the importance of psychological safety alongside physical health and safety in our workplaces. These changes show just how integral diversity, equity and inclusion is to any responsible mining company and how important it is to get right.
But we cannot stop there, we must show leadership, and continue to have open and honest conversations to drive change not only in our own workforces but also in host communities and society more broadly.
From an Epiroc spokesperson:
International Women's Day is an important reminder that we have a long way to go toward gender equality in the mining industry. At Epiroc it is a top priority to work on this. So for example our sustainability goals for 2030 include that we should double the number of women in operational roles. This is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, it is also good for business as we are convinced that diverse teams are more creative and ultimately perform better. Becoming more diverse is therefore a win-win situation.
At Komatsu, International Women's Day (IWD) marks an opportunity for us to reflect on how we can improve gender parity and celebrate the achievements of women across all the industries we serve. Komatsu is committed to advancing opportunities for women in mining and engineering and recognises that understanding the challenges to gender equity in this industry is an important first step. We are proud to celebrate IWD in our offices across the globe and #embraceequity together.
From Minviro head of consultancy Phoebe Whattoff, and fellow consultant, Sophie Myers:
Phoebe said "It is inspiring to be in a team dedicated to making a positive impact, both for the people who work at Minviro, and minimise the environmental impact of raw materials aiding the low carbon transition".
Sophie adds, "it is refreshing to be at a place where there is a good gender balance. Especially having several women leaders in the business that are trailblazing in this industry. It is hard not to be inspired."
From Nick Mayhew, chief executive at Axora:
As a global technology marketplace, we witness first-hand the international mining trends as companies evolve their inclusivity and diversity objectives.
The major focus on technology innovation and ESG performance is a turning point for the mining industry and requires new ways of thinking and executing. Increasing diversity at the top of these organisations is essential to embracing the opportunity for change.
We firmly believe companies are missing out on the right women who could have a major positive impact on the direction of the industry, which could be avoided if they allowed for more accessibility.
From Penny Simpson, chief financial officer of Hexagon's Mining division
"International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women in the home, community, and workplace, but it's also a time to remember that women do not enjoy equality in any of those places. It is a day to acknowledge that women's progress toward equality is too slow, and our societal power structure is too deeply ingrained to simply stand back and hope that things will get better with time.
It is a day to commit to action that does not rest until women have fair representation at all levels in all corners of the world—this is true in mining and technology, as well as most other international industries. There is much to be done to embrace equity in the workplace, but I am proud that Hexagon's Mining division makes an effort to promote women to leadership roles and include women in decision-making.
I am a clear example of that. I was given an opportunity to serve as CFO but more importantly, was given the coaching to set me up for success. A great starting place for organizations wishing to do better in their journey of embracing equity is to listen to and amplify the voices of women."
From GEOVIA at Dassault Systèmes:
At Dassault Systèmes, we dedicate IWD to honoring the achievements of women throughout history and across the globe. GEOVIA, a Dassault Systèmes brand, marks this day to celebrate women's perseverance, talent, spirit, and invaluable contribution to the mining and technology industry, we also advocate for women's rights and accelerate gender parity in the sector. As a brand led by exceptional women leaders, we challenge gender stereotyping, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion. We believe that people start from different places, and in different circumstances; hence, true inclusion and belonging require equitable action. We #EmbraceEquity.
From Kal Tire's Mining Group:
We recognise the multitude of contributions and outstanding service provided by the women throughout our organization and the international regions we operate in. We have an unwavering commitment to our diversity, equity and inclusion journey, and celebrate the many achievements of women in mining this week. By striving collectively to uplift one another, we can #EmbraceEquity and help create a world that's more inclusive. Happy International Women's Day!
From Mats Eriksson, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions
The topic of women within our industry is something we focus on within Sandvik every day, not just today, in line with our commitment to DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion).
We work in close cooperation with other partners in the industry to make it easier for women to work in the mining industry, ensuring that we make it a more female-friendly environment - for example, by providing appropriate facilities, safety wear, etc. We are also proud to be partnering the International Women in Mining (IWiM) movement, supporting the creation of a truly inclusive workplace and reinforcing our strategic objective to increase female representation within the mining sector - in particular, to offer all talents the opportunity to build a fulfilling career within our global operations.
We are actively striving to increase the percentage of female managers within our organization and measuring our progress. In addition to our own Reverse Mentoring Program, we'll also be offering a number of mentorships (specifically designed for female employees) with the IWiM movement.
From Katy Board, Vice President, Talent & ESG at Triple Flag Precious Metals:
"At Triple Flag we believe in the essential good that mining provides society. As society is changing, our industry needs to change with it. That means ensuring that the people who work in mining reflect the communities that depend on it. Our goal is to drive diversity, inclusion, and equity in the mining industry.
International Women's Day gives us an opportunity to recognise work that still needs to be done but also celebrate the steps we are taking to achieve greater diversity. This includes Triple Flag's membership of the Women's Empowerment Principles and our Board and senior management diversity targets."