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Deborah Craig, Board Member & Head of Africa Group International Women in Mining GRUVINDUSTRI

Mining the possibilities: Raising the profile of women in the industry

With a recovery on the horizon, the mining industry needs to act now to expand the contribution of women, or miss out on creating real business value.

"We foster women’s professional development and implement initiatives to improve the gender balance in mining."

Women have always been miners. At the Great Orme mine in Wales, they unearthed the copper that gave the Bronze Age its name. During the Iron Age, they mined the salt that preserved food. During the Industrial Revolution women extracted the coal that fueled the steam engine, giving rise to today’s modern economy. But as mining work became increasingly mechanised, laws were put in place restricting women from working in mines, reinforcing the idea that mining was “men’s work”.

Fast forward to today. The restrictive laws are gone, but women’s representation in industrial mining remains low. And the closer to the rock face or to the boardroom you get, the worse the numbers are. At the rock face, a culture of machismo makes women feel unwelcome, even though women excel at, for example, operating equipment and driving trucks. In the boardroom, mining has the lowest percentage of women directors of any industry. According to a report by PwC and WiM UK, as of 2014 only 8 percent of the directors of the top 500 public mining companies were women. Even though research by McKinsey confirms that greater gender diversity at the board and executive levels equals better financial performance.

International Women in Mining www.internationalwim.org has over 9,200 members and links 50+ women in mining associations around the world, from countries as diverse as Mongolia, Ghana, Chile and Sweden. We foster women’s professional development and implement initiatives to improve the gender balance in mining. But we can’t do it alone.

And so we are calling on industry leaders to:

• Show leadership on this issue at the top. Ensure gender diversity at the board and executive levels.

• Change internal culture. Implement fact-based gender diversity strategies to understand the underrepresentation of women within different job categories

• Increase the visibility of women in mining. The technical expertise of women in the industry deserves recognition. We applaud the conference organisers at EuroMineExpo who committed to having a gender-balanced speaker roster.

• Support mentoring. Help build mentoring programs and peer networks that include both men and women that can be important forums for encouraging and supporting women.

The path to success for women in mining is the path to success for the entire industry.

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Deborah Craig

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