Women in Mining: Why it would be great to have more female rock kickers

It’s no secret that the resources industry is male-dominated. Females account for only 12% of the global mining workforce, according to a recent World Economic Forum study, and about 16% of the Australian mining workforce.

There are a multitude of legitimate reasons why this may be, but in recent years, there has been an increased push for more diversity within the mining industry.

With the inaugural Diggers and Dealers Mining Conference in full swing, we decided to take a look at the measurable benefits of more women in mining. 

For better financial returns, employ a female Board member

The mining industry has the lowest number of women on Boards of any industry group globally, with just 7.9% of Board seats held by women in the top 500 mining companies.

The Chair of Women in Mining UK (WIM), Amanda van Dyke, has been vocal in advocating for women in mining, noting that women in leadership positions correlate to better profitability, greater return on capital, lower risk and better environmental, social, and governance management.

A 3-year study by WIM found that mining companies with women on their Boards, on average, double the return on capital employed, enterprise value to reserve (EV/reserve) and dividend yield, compared to companies that had no women on their Boards.

Astonishingly, the earnings per share of these companies with female Board members were found to be 13 times higher than all-male Board counterparts.    

Diversity encourages innovation and growth

Higher levels of diversity within a team boosts innovation, as diverse teams can provide different perspectives and opinions, often leading to better outcomes than those delivered by a homogenous group. This in turn fosters a company’s opportunity for innovation and growth.

Mr Michael Erickson, AngloGold Ashanti Australia’s Senior Vice President, said there were no women in underground mining when he started his career in the 1980s and commented on how increased representation of women in the industry was driving positive change.

“The connection with safety was very poor in those days, the attitude to safety was very ‘blokeish’, it was disregarded,” he said. “Now I find workplaces are a lot more caring and it’s because we’re improving the gender balance.”

Women drive sustainable mining

Within the natural resources industry, there is an undeniable shift towards critical minerals that support the transition to clean energy. And it appears that women are key to driving this shift forward. In a recent webinar hosted by the Canadian Institute of Mining and the Embassy of Sweden, panellists discussed the business case for more women in green mining, commenting on Utah University research that found “femininity and greenness have become cognitively linked”

(You can watch the webinar here: Future of Mining – Women’s Role in the Green Transformation”)

Women may hold the key to solving mining’s skills shortage

Perth-based consultancy firm Pit Crew, which provides labour market forecasts to the mining sector, estimated WA’s mining industry could currently support 150,000 jobs, but there was a shortfall of about 28,000 workers.

The company’s Managing Director, Peter Dyball, said he expected demand for labour to peak in late 2025, with about 182,000 jobs on offer and a forecast shortfall of 36,500 workers.

Encouraging more people to pursue a career in mining is a major challenge faced by the industry.

As mining companies contend with ongoing labour shortages and struggle to recruit the next generation of talent, one group that could provide a solution to both problems is… women.

More female role models in the industry would undoubtedly encourage a younger generation to pursue the career path in the natural resources sector.

Shell Australia’s Ms Chien Foo, a finalist for the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy’s Women in Resources awards (2023), said she had noticed more female leaders coming through in onshore operations over the past five years.

“It’s good to be able to see leaders in that role so you could aspire to be them and see someone relatable, it helps motivate me to go up the ranks myself,” she said.

Initiatives such as ABB’s “Unstoppable” campaign, also aim at raising the visibility of women in industry and driving greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

How can we encourage more women in the mining industry?

According to engineering and electrification firm ABB, attracting more women into the mining industry relies on three factors: representation, talent pipeline, and promotion of women.

Firstly, taking a proactive approach to recruiting will assist with women being well-represented at all levels of the organisation, from entry-level positions to executive leadership.

We’re seeing mining companies set targets for gender balance (as the investment industry also does) and a lot of focus on culture – that is, promoting a workplace of inclusion that supports and values diversity.

Speaking at the annual Gold Industry Group breakfast on the sidelines of the 2023 Diggers & Dealers Conference, Westgold Resources Managing Director Wayne Bramwell said he was “aggressively” focused on improving the company’s workplace culture.

“We’ve taken a very hard line on culture in the business in the last 12 months and we’ve set a very basic formula — leadership drives culture, culture drives performance,” he said.

“If we’re going to be able to sustain the business, people are key to it, culture is a really key piece to that in my mind.”

Speaking to the West Australian earlier this year, South32’s finance Vice President Ms Sandy Sibenaler, said a flexible working arrangement was only an emerging concept when she started in the sector 20 years ago.

“That’s the thing I’ve seen evolve the most and I think it’s had a fantastic impact on the industry,” she said.

“I found, particularly once I had children, that I really valued female role models to a greater extent, understanding how they managed their role as a parent and carer combined with their role as a high-performing leader.”

Secondly, investing in the talent pipeline means supporting the development and growth of women within the organisation (through training, mentoring, and other programs), to create a pipeline of qualified women who are ready and able to take on leadership roles when they become available.

The NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program has been running for over 18 years, with the number of female participants increasing from zero to nine, meaning a third of the class is currently made up of women. The growth of female participants in the training program is encouraging and representative of a wider trend suggesting the number of women in the resources industry is increasing.

Actively promoting qualified women into leadership positions is the final piece of the puzzle. But not for the stake of simply achieving quotas – promotion should be on merit and suitability for the role, not gender alone.

Here at Investability, as a female-led team, we are passionate about working with mining companies.  If you would like to learn more about our team and our track record in the mining industry, please contact us.

 

References

ABB. (2023). Unstoppable: celebrating female role models in mining. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/unstoppable-celebrating-female-role-models-mining-björn-jonsson/

BHP (2022). BHP Women Inspire “Women in Mining” Top 100. Retrieved from:

https://www.bhp.com/news/articles/2022/11/bhp-women-inspire-in-women-in-mining-top-100

International Labour Organisation. (2021). Women in mining: Towards gender equality. Retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/global/docs/WCMS_821061/lang–en/index.htm

Mining Journal (2023). Women Catalysts for Change for Gender Equality in Mining. Retrieved from: https://www.miningreview.com/base-metals/women-catalysts-for-change-for-gender-equality-in-mining/

PwC. (2014).  Mining for Talent: A study of women on boards in the mining industry by WIM (UK) and PwC.Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/gr/en/publications/assets/mining-for-talent.pdf

The West Australian. (2023). Visible female role models key to increasing diversity in the male-dominated mining industry. Retrieved from: https://thewest.com.au/business/mining/visible-female-role-models-key-to-increasing-diversity-in-the-male-dominated-mining-industry-c-9855895

The West Australian. (n.d.). TOWARDS 2030: Closing the Gender Gap in Mining and Construction: how businesses can be champions of change. Retrieved from: https://towards2030.thewest.com.au/closing-the-gender-gap-in-mining-and-construction/

Women in Mining. (2022). International Labour Organization Report: Women in Mining: Towards Gender Equality. Retrieved from: https://www.womeninmining.org.uk/portfolio/international-labour-organization-report/

 

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