Diving deep into diversity
Mining has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. And while there have been steps taken in recent times to help integrate women into mining, they are still vastly underrepresented in the industry. The CEO of Women in Mining, Amanda van Dyke, spoke to Minestories about the organisation’s goals and what the future holds for women in mining.
Established in 2006, Women in Mining (WIM UK) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the employment, retention and professional development of women in the mining and minerals sector.
What are WIM’s primary goals?
Our network aims to help individual members get together and exchange ideas and information, which helps to raise the profile of women in the mining sector, both locally and globally. We hope to enable our members to contribute to and pull from the network because we believe that together we can accomplish more than we can individually.
There are fewer women in the mining sector than any other industry sector in the world. Part of our role is to speak for women in the mining sector, informing industry participants and decision makers of the challenges and opportunities women are finding in pursuing careers in mining companies or other mining-related businesses. This entails participating in market meetings and industry bodies and constantly increasing the visibility of both women in the industry and our network.
Another goal of our organisation is to promote the mining sector as a career choice to women in all professions, through our work with universities and other women’s organisations. Last but not least, we seek to contribute to the research and business case for the economic advancement of women in the mining sector.
How do you work to accomplish these goals?
We do a lot of things. We organise monthly seminar events, where a wide variety of topics of relevance to the mining industry are presented and discussed to advance and increase knowledge of various parts of the sector, such as metal prices, technological advancements and professional development. Those events serve to inform as well as provide a platform for networking.
We also publish research on the status and contribution of women to the global mining industry. We are currently working on toolkits for mentorship for mining companies to help them incorporate mentoring for women as part of their employee development.
WIM UK actively works and partners with other groups and organisations, schools and student societies, other women’s professional groups, and international WIM groups. The general idea is to broaden our membership, and unite with other professional women in the mining industry.
What do you see as the biggest reason for the lack of women in the mining sector, and how will that change going forward?
The reason for the lack of women is multifaceted. Mining is thousands of years old as an industry, and up until very recently it was very labour intensive and thus only men worked in it. Modern mining is a multifaceted global business that is heavily reliant on technology. There is no reason why a woman cannot do 90 percent of the current jobs in the mining industry, but the idea that it is a male industry where women don’t belong is pervasive in many parts of the world, not only among men but also among women.
Attracting women to the industry and keeping women in the industry are challenges. The solution is to change the bias of both men and women, and the perception of the nature of mining globally, in order to attract and retain a diverse workforce. And changing perceptions takes time and effort. The entire industry is working towards changing that perception, and networks like ours do their best to help with that.
What primary challenges do women in mining currently face?
The true challenge is getting the business case across, letting both the industry and women know that diversity is a serious contributor to better mining companies, and that they are welcome and needed in the industry. There is a very strong case to be made for getting more women involved in the mining industry.
The research we have done as well as research by companies and organisations around the world heavily support the fact that women contribute greatly to the bottom line. At senior levels women make mining companies more efficient and profitable. They make companies more sustainable in the long term and also increase shareholder returns. At a local level employing women has proven to significantly increase efficiency, and it also solidifies mining companies’ social licence to operate.
Do you foresee more girls getting into engineering studies at an early age in the future?
Yes I do. The numbers of women in science, technology, engineering and math is increasing, largely because countries realise both the need and advantage of having more women trained in these areas. But that question is a bit of a diversion.
Yes, there are very few women engineers, and even fewer female mining engineers, but you don’t need to be a mining engineer to work in the industry. Less than 1 percent of jobs in the mining industry require an engineering degree, and while it’s true that you cannot build a mine without engineers, you also cannot build a mine without geologists, licences, project managers, truck drivers, financing and a host of other specialisms that are essential to the mining business. This idea that the reason that there are not enough women in mining due to a lack of female engineers is, quiet frankly, an excuse. Half of all geology graduates in the world today are women, and have been for some time. Mining is a thoroughly modern, global and integrated industry, and there is no real reason why women cannot play a greater role in the industry going forward.