“How do we embrace equity in mining?”

by Danielle Hatton, Principal, Natural Resources

For International Women’s Day 2023, the theme is ‘embrace equity’ – click on the website you see the first paragraph captures this with the statement:

Imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.”

Now let us pose the question: “How do we embrace equity in mining?”

What's the State of Women in Mining Today?

In 1974, the first women were employed to work in a coal mine in the US, being the first female miners of the United Mine Workers of America to work inside a coal mine.

women in mining

Today, women hold every type of job available in the mining industry, from general labourer to mining engineer, General Manager to CEO and Chairwoman.

The reality is however, that female representation in the global mining workforce is approximately 14% and there are still huge efforts needed from the industry to #EmbraceEquity and meet expectations.

This is not for a lack of context or understanding of its importance and the issue is being tabled at the very highest levels.

Supporting Women in Mining Roles

At Mining Indaba this year the CEO of ICMM, Rohitesh Dhawan; President of the Minerals Council South Africa, Nolitha Fakude; Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Minerals, Sinead Kaufman; and Newmont CEO Tom Palmer, held a panel discussion on DEI. The ICMM later published a summary of the discussion including:

“We need to stare reality in the face, acknowledge the role that we as current leaders have played in not prioritising change fast enough, and take bold steps to change that reality for the better.”

As an advisor to the mining industry, I have had the privilege to support and partner with inspiring women leaders, allies and executive committees dedicated to this change. But finding practical long-term solutions is not without challenge.

female surveyors

The first and most obvious problem is that talent pools are not always gender equal. This naturally skews the process in favour of male candidates – purely by the nature of numbers and probability.

Shaping the Future of the Industry

We are all responsible in shaping the candidate pipeline and we need to seriously consider how we look at expanding this small talent pool. The first step is the process requires creativity and ingenuity in developing the right approach.

By doing so, it supports our industry to expand this small talent pool, to seriously start to look at talent from different sectors and cross industries, supporting our industry in the leadership needed for the future of mining.

Retaining Women in Mining

And that leads to our second biggest issue – once we have attracted women into our industry, how do we develop and retain them?

In February this year, McKinsey & Company refreshed their research Experiences of Women in Mining and the insights were a major part of the discussion at this year’s PDAC. In 2021, the report focused on many factors as to why women leave the industry, but the role of ‘embrace equity’ was pivotal.

Company culture, perception of less opportunities for advancement, qualification to advance for technical and leadership roles were just some of the areas.

In Conclusion...

These challenges sit within a backdrop of overall high talent shortages, shifting skills demands, a focus like never before on demonstrated ESG commitments to stakeholders alongside the industry’s accountability and need to create a psychologically safe and physically safe environment.

The industry stands at a point of inflection, at a point of creating true transformational change.

Although there is no question in my mind that true equity and representation will happen, there is no greater time for mining organisations to act and ‘embrace equity’, that can lead to sustainable change.


“How do we embrace equity in mining?”

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