o3 BLOG | Educational
Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Mining Sector
Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Mining Sector — Women in Mining is a leading not-for-profit organization for women in the mining space — it envisions an industry that fosters, promotes and empowers women. With chapters across Canada and all over the world, Women in Mining’s goal is to have a future in which all people, regardless of gender, are afforded the same opportunities and goals. Women in Mining Canada has been uniquely positioned to work with and support women in mining and related industries since 2009.
Women in Mining Canada’s Mission is to:
Women in Mining Canada’s strategy is to focus on providing the tools and resources to raise awareness of diversity and inclusion. We want to help women working in the Canadian mining industry build the skills to become future leaders.
Women in Mining Canada is committed to providing a national platform that fosters excellence and best practices and celebrates with award recognition.
It is time for change. The mining industry has the lowest number of women in the C-Suite of any industry group worldwide. Professional networking, speaking opportunities and access to board training rounds out our strategy.
Diversity and Inclusion in Canada’s Mining Industry
It is an industry-wide accepted fact that mining has a gender diversity problem. The mining industry lags behind most other sectors in addressing this systemic issue. Natural Resources Canada reports show that women make less than 15% of the Canadian mining workforce, compared to 48% of the overall Canadian workforce.
According to a recent McKinsey study, companies prioritizing diversity and inclusivity are 21% more likely to deliver “above-average profitability” and greater long-term value. The key correlation is the gender-diverse executive team. Why might this be the case? Echoing the S and G in ESG initiatives, mining companies that prioritize gender parity as a strategic goal have diverse ideas, experiences, cognitive frameworks, and expertise, which gives them an advantage in a competitive market. Diverse workforces are more adaptable and productive, resulting in better results for shareholders and stakeholders.
While there are initiatives to attract women and girls to STEM-related areas of study and to the mining industry itself, there aren’t enough initiatives for women to remain in their roles. Retention of mid-career female talent is a critical issue within the mining industry, as evidenced by an extremely high attrition rate. Building an inclusive culture necessitates senior leadership’s active involvement and modification of business objectives. However, this top-down culture shift is not enough.
“Companies need to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives from the ground-up.” Says Melissa Ng, Secretary and active board member of Women in Mining Canada. “Many of the women in the C-suite and other senior leadership positions have been poached from other mining and engineering companies. This is not an increase in female talent and representation — it is a transfer.”
Consideration of the percentage of women at each stage of the career cycle, not just senior leadership, is an effective way for mining companies to assess the health of their workforce and identify barriers and biases. Monitoring gender-bias performance metrics and understanding the varying needs for accommodation are some ways mining and exploration companies can improve business operations.
Melissa Ng has worked in the mining sector for nearly 15 years and is currently the Chief Geologist at Cameco Corporation. She is also the mother of two boys, ages 9 and 6 and says that women who choose to be parents face a unique challenge in this sector.
“While I was in my first role as a geologist, other geologists asked if I had children or was married. They expressed more interest in my potential family planning than my professional background.” Many people in the industry viewed parenthood as a hindrance and didn’t think that women could be both parents and geologists — it was one or the other. “When I became pregnant with my first son, the expectation was that I would choose parenthood over my career. There was the assumption that I would not return to work after I had my son, which was common among a lot of women in the industry. However, returning to work and balancing parenthood was always part of my plan.” For the first time in her career, Melissa felt like her voice wasn’t heard and found that there weren’t enough policies to accommodate female parents.
“In addition to the Fly-in/Fly-out nature of many roles in mining, working on mine sites is physically demanding, regardless of your gender, and there is a risk of being exposed to potentially hazardous elements and chemicals. While these can have a negative impact on any person’s health, a woman in the early stages of pregnancy is put at an even higher risk of chemical disease hazards. There weren’t clear policies protecting my health and safety.”
While she encountered many barriers as a female parent, Melissa went on to have her second son and returned to work as an Intermediate Mine Geologist at Cameco Corporation. Although six years have passed, Melissa says that women still face the same challenges that she did, and while some progress has been made, the mining industry has a long way to go. “There is a need to treat people fairly, not just equally — and sometimes people don’t understand that the two aren’t always synonymous. A culture of inclusion doesn’t mean checking boxes and filling quotas — it’s about making the voices of all the underrepresented, not only women, be heard.”
When asked if she has any advice for women and girls interested in a career in mining, Melissa replied, “Stay true to yourself. There will always be a fear of failing, but ahead of that is the opportunity to try again.” Her secret to success is choosing to pursue things that bring her happiness, not only in her career but in every area of her life. Her personal leadership philosophy is: support those around you and allow them to become better than you ever were — and being a member of Women in Mining Canada speaks to that.
Women make up 39% of O3 Mining’s workforce, however, as an industry, we need to continue to work together to strengthen Diversity and Inclusion to extend to not only women, but people of differing abilities, gender identities, and BIPOC. Women in Mining Canada focuses on advancing the interests of women in the minerals exploration and mining sector, through their mission to Educate, Empower, and Elevate. In collaboration with WIM chapters across Canada, they support grassroots initiatives in the areas of personal and professional development, while providing a national voice within the global minerals and mining community.
Their membership is composed of people of all genders who actively support the minerals and mining industry and represent a variety of occupational trades and professions. To learn more about Women in Mining Canada, visit: https://wimcanada.org/
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