In recent years, there has been an undeniable call for more diversity across industries. So how has this impacted the mining industry, a field which has traditionally been very male-dominated? Here, we explore the ways women are changing the game in the mining industry.
Women in mining – who are they?
Before we dive into how women are reshaping the mining industry, let’s take a look at who are the women in the mining industry. According to recent estimates, women make up around 8 – 12 percent of the global mining workforce. Women in mining occupy roles across the spectrum, from labour-intensive to more technically skilled and managerial positions. Women also play a key role in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), especially on the African continent.
The 2021 Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s Women in Mining Survey provides recent insight into women’s roles in the industry. According to the survey, women working in the resource industry are, on average, around 40 years old, highly educated (over 90% of respondents had at least one university degree) and fall in the higher income bracket (about 75% earn more than the average female salary in Australia).
The survey showed significant growth in the number of women who have been in the industry for 5 – 10 years. This means that more women are working in the industry for a longer duration. While this in itself is promising, women still remain underrepresented throughout the industry, including in positions of leadership. On a global scale, less than 1 in 5 mining executives are women, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Diversity drives innovation
Though numbers and statistics provide important insight into women’s role in the industry, the impact women are having goes well beyond numbers. For women to truly make an impact, the mining industry needs to be willing to grow and adapt. And that in and of itself is one of the advantages of added diversity: it forces the industry to go beyond the try and tested. And reinventing itself might be just what the resource industry needs.
We all know that the industry has been under pressure for quite some time. As resources become scarcer and harder to mine, innovation and transformation are more than just buzz words – they are a necessity.
Multiple studies have shown that diversity not only boosts innovation, but it also drives financial gains. Diverse teams are exposed to unexpected ideas and perspectives on a daily basis. This drives the whole team to think outside the box and to recognise new opportunities and unmet needs in the market. This is something we here at Commit Works can attest to. Our own team is 45% women and we have people from 19 countries across 6 continents with a wide range of backgrounds, languages and ethnicities. In 2020, our company was also recognized as one of Australia’s top 100 fastest-growing companies. This achievement is the direct result of the collaborative work of our diverse team.
Inviting women’s voices into the conversations
Having more women occupy diverse roles across operations allows the mining industry to reinvent itself from the inside out. Inviting women’s voices into the conversations gives the industry the opportunity to address issues that have, until now, simply been accepted as the status quo. Seeing as the industry has traditionally been very homogenous, many issues have simply been overlooked because everyone has been looking at things from the same angle. With more women claiming their space in the industry, that’s all changing.
The AusIMM Women in Mining Survey helps shed light on some of the concerns and future hopes women have for the industry. Respondents urged companies to invest in adequate healthcare and childcare that supports a healthy work-life balance. They also highlighted a need for strong leadership – one that prioritises diversity and inclusivity.
Investing in these areas not only benefits the women in the industry – it benefits everyone.
Making mining more sustainable
Besides diversity, there is another issue that has dominated the conversation across industries: climate change. From Greta Thunberg to Christiana Figueres, women have been some of the most vocal advocates for authentic change for a greener, more sustainable future. This advocacy is urgently needed within the mining industry, too.
In her powerful TEDx talk Mining Our Way to a Low Carbon Future, geologist Lucy Crane highlights the crucial role mining can play in sourcing materials that are vital for creating sustainable new technologies, from solar panels to wind turbines and beyond:
“We are facing the biggest environmental threat in generations in climate change and to combat it we need low-carbon technologies. To make these low-carbon technologies we actually need to mine more raw materials than we ever have done in the past. So surely we need people who actually care about the environment to be leading the charge?”
That women are advocating for a greener future in mining is not a coincidence. Multiple studies have shown that women are drivers for sustainable change. This is true to such an extent that femininity and “greenness” have become cognitively linked, as discussed in “Future of Mining – Women’s Role in the Green Transformation”, a webinar hosted by the Canadian Institute of Mining and the Embassy of Sweden in early 2021. By making the industry more inclusive to women, you’re not just driving innovation and financial gains – you might just be saving the world.
Creating space for future changemakers
As things stand, women still remain underrepresented throughout the industry. But there is also reason to be optimistic. Based on the recent AusIMM survey, the majority of respondents felt that the industry is becoming more inclusive. Interestingly, most of them also felt that their own workplace was more inclusive than the industry as a whole.
As previously discussed, studies have shown that diversity drives financial gains as well as boosts innovation and productivity. On a very practical level, women can make workplaces safer and more comfortable for everyone by drawing attention to areas that need improving, including healthcare and childcare – or something as simple as having adequate toilet facilities on site. Safe to say, clean and accessible toilets are something that benefits everyone. Looking at the bigger picture, women in mining can play a key role in quite literally saving the world by advocating for more sustainable mining practices.
At the end of the day, it’s up to everyone in the industry to provide women with the opportunity and necessary support for them to truly make an impact. Discussing the challenges of navigating a traditionally male-dominated field, women across the industry highlight the importance of female mentorship and leadership that actively supports and prioritises diversity and inclusivity.
As it turns out, the best way to have more women in the mining industry… is to have more women in the mining industry.