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Women break down barriers, overcome challenges in the face of male-dominated mining industry


April, 2017

M. DeHart

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STEM community encourages girls to pursue engineering fields.

With 3.71 billion women and 3.77 billion men, the world is almost exactly split in half by sex.

As of 2015, 237,812 people were employed as mine operators across the globe. Of those two hundred thousand people, less than 10% are women. Historically, with the heavy lifting and large machinery involved mining has been viewed as a man’s job, whereas female are traditionally viewed as frail and unable to handle such tasks.  However, women are proving that ideology wrong by breaking their way into the industry. Increasing percentages of women are pursuing engineering degrees, graduating from related vocational schools, and climbing to the top levels of mining companies. Currently seven percent of directorships are held by women, seven CEO’s in the top 500 mining companies are women, and only one CEO of the top 100 mining companies is female: Kay Priestly of Turquoise Hill.

Organizations have popped up to help prepare and network women in the field.

International Women in Mining stands out with over nine thousand members. The association spans over one hundred countries, and its connection with other groups benefit its members. Projects such as IWiM SpeakUp and Women in Boards are pushing to have a stronger female presence on company boards and mining conferences. As associations such as this encourage women to pursue careers in mining, STEM and other programs reach out to girls and young women still in school to consider engineering and related fields traditionally dominated by men.  

For many women a mentality-based barrier keeps them from achieving mining-related goals.

Source: NSW Women in Mining 2014

With mining being a classically masculine, show-of-force career, the work environment in many companies feel exclusive. Despite whether or not the corporation holds a strong equality policy, that mentality does not always show on job sites. Sexual harassment and discrimination, although reportedly less rampant as it was only a few decades ago, still plagues women at every level of mining corporations. These issues escalate in regions where women are only recently joining the workforce, such as South Africa where the ban against women miners was only lifted in 2002.

Good things come from including women.

The change is slow, but already significantly favorable results appear from companies with women in high positions. Global Mining Standards reported as such in a UK study:

Based on the top 500 mining companies that [the UK] utilized for their research, 18 mining companies that had 25 per cent or more of their board comprised of women had an average net profit margin for the 2011 financial year that was 49 percent higher.

Slowly policies and legislation are being passed to help break down the barriers keeping women from fully integrating, and hopefully in the next decade the mining industry will have a more equal gender ratio across the board.

  1. http://www.globalminingstandards.org/women-mining-steps-strategies-best-practices-gender-diversity/
  2. http://www.miningglobal.com/operations/2189/International-Women-in-Mining-and-bridging-the-gender-gap
  3. https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/queensland-project-identify-gender-diversity-opportunities-mining/
  4. http://countrymeters.info/en/World
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/statistics/allmining.html
  6. http://www.pwc.co.za/en/press-room/women-in-mining.html
  7. http://www.workinfo.org/index.php/articles/item/1728-women-in-mining-still-exploited-and-sexually-harassed


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