Changing the face of mining

Published: Tuesday, 29 July 2014

It is no secret that mining has traditionally been, and still is, a male-dominated field, but leaders in the industry are quickly realising that, in order to be competitive, this gap must close, fast.

By Ken Stapylton


Today, women comprise just 15% of the mining industry’s workforce, compared to 46% across other industries. Women play a critical role in ensuring the industry has the skills and talent to build and operate major resource projects well into the future. By developing this talent pool, the mining sector increases its overall competiveness, productivity and economic growth opportunities.

And mining companies have noticed. As concerns continue to rise over efficiency, profitability and competiveness in the industry, businesses are seeing the importance of attracting more women to the sector and are activating more initiatives to accomplish this.

In fact, the Australian Mines and Metal Association (AMMA), in partnership with the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA), recently combined resources and developed a series of workshops to help employers attract and hire more women, with a goal to increase the number of women in the mining sector by 10% by 2020. The programme allows female employees to have e-chats and web-based training with an individually appointed mentor for nine months (see box).

At the Sandvik Mining facility in Alachua, a mentoring programme was created to coach emerging women leaders to develop their career paths. In 2013, Donna Burdge, human resources business partner for Sandvik surface drills, was inspired to start the pilot programme after attending a lecture on mentoring.


The group met several times over eight months to discuss different tasks and topics. Specifically, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was used as a catalyst for conversation on challenges that are specific to women in leadership. While the mentoring programme was designed to coach female employees, it also featured a course in which the participants were taught how to coach others, so the participants could then take on mentees of their own.

The relationships and empowerment that resulted for the members of the programme were invaluable. By simply having the ability to discuss challenges and share experiences, the group were able to build off of one another and grow professionally. In fact, since the beginning of the programme, the members have all seen growth within their roles in the organisation, with two of them already shifting into global positions.

While initiatives such as these are instrumental in both developing current female talent and attracting more talent to the field, the support of male leaders is critical. Men have to understand the value women bring to mining and provide opportunities and tools for success. At the most basic level, men should view female colleagues as team members and extend to them the same respect they would to any of their male counterparts.

The industry can do more to make mining an attractive and lucrative occupation for women, and shatter the stereotype that mining is a men-only profession. There are a few ways this can be done.

First, the industry should aim to increase the presence of women in managerial roles and open traditionally male-held occupations such as production and engineering.

The industry may also expand recruiting efforts and devote resources to promoting companies that focus on diversity and inclusion, and actively seek a diverse workforce. This can be through traditional and social media, partnerships, and company collateral. By simply increasing the visibility of women in the sector, women’s roles will become more the norm, and opportunities will become more attractive to women who are interested in developing a career path. These initiatives could be the catalyst for helping grow the industry and move it forward. By devoting more time and effort to expanding women’s roles, we can push the industry forward, and help it reach its full potential.

* Ken Stapylton is vice president of rotary drilling, Sandvik Mining

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Australia’s pledge to boost women in mining

A Women in Mining (WiM) event held at the Australian High Commission in London in July showcased why increasing the role of women in mining in Australia is a key priority for the country.

“Currently, women represent 16% of Australia’s resource industry,” said Andrea Mitchell, member for Kingsley, WA, during a reception of the UK WiM group, hosted by the governments of WA and Queensland.

“Realising women are an unmined resource, the AWRA, which is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the AMMA, is working towards a target of increasing the representation of women in the resource, allied and construction sectors to 25% by 2020,” Mitchell said.

“In particular, WA is committed to the development of the African mining sector, where women have a vital role (...) South Africa leads the world when it comes to women on boards in the mining industry, followed by Australia,” she concluded.

100 Global Inspiration Women in Mining

In November 2013 the UK arm of WiM produced a list of the most inspirational women in mining, in a text sponsored by Standard Bank.**

According to Amanda Van Dyke, chairman of WiM, an earlier study which looked at trends within corporations “sought to correlate the performance of mining industry organisations with the level of gender diversity within them - to demonstrate some of the benefits that higher female representation on boards and in senior executive positions can have on corporate performance”.

One of the main challenges identified by the report was a lack of female role models, which is why the text was created.