Digging Deeper: How Diverse is Mining today?

6 min

It is no secret that the mining industry has historically been an area of significant male dominance. Well into the 1970s, Colorado, Wyoming, and many other states still had laws expressly prohibiting women from working underground. Myths that they were too fragile or brought bad luck prevented many women from entering the industry. 

However, in the last decade alone there has been a great influx of initiatives, programs, pathways, and recruitment drives to get women an equal seat at the table. 

So, how diverse is mining today?

Important Changes Over the Last Decade:

From the application and recruitment process being supported by equal opportunities and the use of scorecards to targeted adverts designed to appeal to women, we are seeing many companies across the globe implement changes to try and drive female participation. Appropriate PPE, day-care, maternity, and paternity rights are evolving:

  • Covergalls Inc - Alicia Woods felt inspired by her own experience in mining, pondering why with so many women joining unconventional careers, did they still wear garments designed for a male's body type? Woods created appropriate PPE for women across all industries.
  • Newmont also opened its first nursing mothers’ rooms at the company’s Akyem mine in Ghana.
  • Others such as South32 have also focused on practical actions such as providing suitable facilities that previously prevented women from working onsite.

“From creating enabling policies to an enabling environment, what I’ve done is create positions where there were no positions. You can’t wait for a man to leave a position before you bring a woman in.” Deshnee Naidoo, EVP - Base Metals at Vale, reflected. 

Previously, recruiting for senior-level staff nearly always involved external, male considerations. However, many companies are now trying to grow people from within. Certainly, this type of succession planning is helping to give women a seat at the table. 

CSG expert in Mining Recruitment, Christina Theoklitou-Panagiotou, highlighted the crucial impact scorecards are also playing, helping diversify the interview process for women. 

Many hiring managers would make decisions based on “gut feelings.” Now, interview scorecards help both CSG and the clients we partner with make objective, fair, and inclusive hiring decisions.

Without a doubt, scorecards give everyone the chance to share their perspective equally. By employing a consistent and standardized method (scorecard), interviewers remain focused on a candidate’s attributes, allowing objective and fair observations, free of gender-based bias.

A Life of ‘Mine’: An Interview With Deshnee Naidoo

Deshnee Naidoo, now EVP (Base Metals) at Vale, began her mining career in 1998 - a time where only 6% of mining degrees were awarded to women. When being asked by the Women In The African Mining Industry Report what were the biggest challenges she faced at this time, she stated that they were most likely:

  • Poor maternity benefits 
  • Not getting equal recognition as male counterparts including getting overlooked for training, promotions, etc 
  • Getting overlooked/ dismissed in meetings

So how does Naidoo feel about diversity in mining now? She reflected:

Indeed, we at CSG have witnessed clients increasingly requesting female candidates in response to vacancies. Without a doubt, it is an exciting time for women in mining. The trouble is, making sure this message is received by young women who may not have considered a career in mining yet. To see women in leadership roles within mining, there needs be more done at an entry level to ensure there are women in place to move up the ranks.

Getting Into The Industry Isn’t As Hard As It May Seem

In our previous article, we explored the impact of ‘early years’ in particular, how “girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education” consequently, the mining industry is crying out for female talent.

As a result, corporations are taking measures to adopt a more diversified interview process to encourage more women into mining. Often, women are only involved in the interview process from an HR point of view. However, this is starting to change as businesses become more aware of female talent motivations. 

Research from behavioural science shows that the most effective ways to combat gender bias involve adopting standardized hiring processes that encourage diversity. Processes such as objective hiring criteria, neutral language, blind evaluations, a diverse set of evaluators, and structured interviews with scorecards.

Certainly, being supported by equal opportunities alongside a better awareness of advertisements that also appeal to women, means that getting into the mining industry isn’t as hard as it once was.

Moreover, there are alternative routes into the mining industry for young women who do not have a degree in a mining-related discipline.

Salary Disparity in mining, a thing of the past?

Women are, for the most part, attracted to the mining sector by the type and variety of work it offers such as the opportunities for professional growth and advancement, and competitive remuneration.

These three factors even remain consistent across regions, with developing regions (Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa) ranking remuneration as the highest factor for attraction into the industry.

So, why is there still a salary disparity in mining?

According to a poll by the Mining People Polling/Media Centre, a common theme was that under these conditions, men were sometimes paid more because they brought “muscular strength”.

However, it was also noted that we are rapidly moving away from physical roles to more technically-skilled roles - and where the operation of complex equipment with careful skill was required, there was no gender pay gap.

This is particularly positive as we enter a new digitally-savvy world. The rapid influx of AI capabilities and machine learning is extremely advantageous for women.

CSG expert Christina Theoklitou-Panagiotou reported, “we have moved away into a more tech-savvy space, rather than hands-on work - it is more about understanding the technology”.

As a result, we are increasingly looking towards transferable skills as clients are open to considering people with the same skill set from different industries. However, we recognize that this message can often be lost in the jargon of advertisements and job descriptions. 

While men typically apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women (typically) apply only if they meet 100% of them, it is crucial that we get this messaging right to attract women into senior roles.

The Midas Touch: The Impact of Female Leaders

According to a 2021 study, firms with more female directors on boards present a more pronounced positive association between R&D and future firm performance.

Furthermore, a September article published by The Credit Suisse Research Institute, revealed that boardroom diversity continues to improve globally with an approximate average of 24% of women sitting in corporate boardrooms. The percentage of women in senior management positions (“C-suite” roles) has also improved to 20%. However, the percentage of women in technical roles rather than support roles (HR, marketing) is still slim. 

Crucially, the report did illustrate a positive correlation between increased gender diversity in leadership positions and superior returns on capital, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and stock performance. The more ubiquitous diversity is within an organization, the stronger the correlation.

“The math is very clear that companies with diverse boards have outperformed companies with non-diverse boards over time” stated Mellody Hobson, director of JPMorgan, Chase and Starbucks, where she is currently the only Black woman to chair the board of a Fortune 500 company in an interview earlier this year.

As a result, it has become a part of corporate interest to place female executives into leadership and board member roles.

The mining environment experiences constant disruption and innovation, we need leaders who can effectively embrace change.

Something women are particularly gifted at. McKinsey & Company suggest that women tend to demonstrate strengths in team building: “They are particularly good at defining responsibilities clearly, and mentoring and coaching employees.”

A transformational (or communal) leader is typically described as supportive, flexible, empathetic, caring, or nurturing – attributes that, for whatever reason, are more prevalent in women.

Research shows that a communal leadership style results in far better employee engagement scores compared to a traditional hierarchical environment. By enhancing motivation and morale, communal leadership can also improve work-life balance and job satisfaction. 

Certainly, in the last 5 years, the mining industry has begun to recognize that by promoting women into leadership roles, not only can you enjoy increased profits, but you can change the entire industry for the better. 

Collaboration Is Key: It’s Not A Case Of ‘Mining’ Your Own Business

Without a doubt, it seems that gender equality in mining rests on its own rebranding. We must continue to support women entering the industry and do more to change the outdated perceptions of what it's like to work in the industry. 

At CSG, we embrace our changing society and engage with candidates, clients, and organizations to ensure we do not miss out on the next generation of talent.

By continuing to advocate for a diversified interview process, including diversifying the interview panel itself, we can encourage female talent not only to opt for a career in mining, bridging this lack of talent but further their existing career in mining into mid and senior-level roles.

The challenge for the mining industry is to pick up the pace of this shift in perception, making sure that we have enough female candidates to infiltrate the industry.

If you’re interested to know more about how CSG is tackling diversity in STEM, you can browse our full range of insights here. Alternatively, speak to a member of our expert team today:

Christina Theoklitou-Panagiotou, Senior Consultant - Mining

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Olivia Durrant, Consultant - Mining Technology

Profile and Contact Details or contact via LinkedIn