For a long time the mining industry was considered as a ‘boys only club’. Only in recent decades this presumption started to change. Mining companies discovered that diverse teams on both corporate and on-site locations are much more efficient, women discovered that the mining industry can provide them with additional opportunities. However, women are still a small minority among the workforce within the mining industry and whilst more women are entering the industry, this growth is slow.
This week’s discussion is focused on challenges and opportunities that women face in mining. Amanda Cotton – an experienced mining expat, agreed to share her unique first- hand experience of working at a mine site. Amanda worked as the HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at Glencore’s Katanga Mining operation in DRC and is currently consulting to Banro Corporation.
AER – Thank you for agreeing to have a fifth and last interview with AER International. We are delighted to have an opportunity to discuss such important subject as women in mining with you.
AC – It is great to speak about such relevant issue, one that is very close to my heart.
AER – Amanda, what do you think are the challenges women face whilst working within the mining industry?
AC – Whilst women are being recognised as part of the mining world, there is a still a long way to go to make it a truly gender balanced industry. More companies need to get on board with improving their gender balance and also look at the bigger picture of what does their organisation look like currently and what do they need to do to attract and retain more females. Once this happens, there will certainly be less challenges to women wanting to get started in the mining industry.
AER – What is being done to improve women representation in mining industry?
AC – There are many groups around the world, such as Women in Mining, that are doing great work to inspire women to join the industry and to promote gender diversity within mining. More women are signing up to mining related courses such as Mining Engineering and Geology. Women are also making it on to Boards for the right reasons, for their talent and experience. It is also great to see more women speakers at global events.
AER – What can also be done to attract more women to the industry?
AC – We are now seeing more women signing up to mining related courses as mentioned earlier and this is great news. Making girls in High School aware that the industry is open to them too. Companies need to work to make themselves more attractive to both sexes. There needs to be more improvements to facilities on sites to prepare for a more gender diverse workforce. These changes will help attract more candidates to these forward-thinking companies.
AER – What are the challenges women board members face in mining industry?
AC – Women board member numbers are still in the minority, so getting their voices heard is important. With more women joining the industry, we hope to see a trend in the future that investment is made in these females and they are nurtured and developed all the way through from the start of their careers right through to a seat on the Board.
AER – What sort of opportunities are there for women in mining?
AC – I believe in today’s world there are no barriers or ceilings for women in the mining industry. Therefore, in the right company, with the right support, the opportunities are out there for women all the way up to Board level. Women with the right determination and drive can make it happen.
AER – It is incredibly hard to coordinate family and work in any industry, this must surely be accentuated on mine sites. How have you dealt with these sort of challenges?
AC – I think family and work is a day to day challenge to both men and women. Around the world there are so many different types of mine sites, some can accommodate families close by, then there are those that mean family must remain at home, whilst the parent goes on rotation away from home. We each make these situations work or not, depending on our own situations. For me, having worked in Africa in a remote location of higher risk, I did not feel it was the right place for me to return to when my first son arrived, 8 weeks prematurely. Now my boys are of school age, our needs as a family are dictated by their need for school amongst other things. Therefore, I put their needs first when considering a new job opportunity.
AER – What can be improved in mining industry to improve family/work balance?
AC – Having been in a site based role that I felt was not right for me to return to after having a family, having options available at a corporate level when returning to work after a period of maternity/paternity would be good. However, I appreciate, not all mining companies would be able to offer that. In a world that is rapidly changing due to technological advancements, I think companies are starting to review their company policies in general and encompassed within that, is also looking at what can be done to improve the work/life balance, whether you are male or female and have children or not. I also think that employers are more aware of mental health issues than they used to be, so, this is also an influencing factor when considering how the work/life balance can be improved upon.
AER – AER report ‘Mind the gap’ shows that women usually spend 50% more time working for the same role in the mining industry than men. What are your thoughts about it?
AC – I would say in the past, women may have had longer tenure in a role due to the perception that it is still a male dominated industry and there are not the opportunities for women to move around from role to role, or company to company.
AER – Amanda, it was great speaking with you once again. Thank you very much!
AC – Thank you again for inviting me.
AER – On behalf of the team of AER International I would like to say thank you for all our readers. It is great to see that articles about mining expat experience are so popular. Speaking about mining, if you are interested about gender diversity within mining industry, you can read more about it at our report ‘Mind the Gap’. Please find the link below: