The pursuit of greater gender diversity within mining industry recruitment has been a longstanding endeavour. From my expertise in the mining sector, I’ve seen various changes over the years, and am ever curious to see how today’s female leaders in the mining industry are helping unearth tangible change.
To delve deeper into their efforts, CM Industrial allowed me to sit down with an enviable panel of mining leaders who have seen considerable success through diversifying their organisations. I was excited to hear how their stories, advice, and strategies could inform my work, and all of our efforts towards greater gender diversity within mining, from recruitment and retention to company advancement.
Joining me in conversation were Michelle Ash, Technical Executive at OZ Minerals & Board Member of multiple start-ups, and Sarah Hartog, Vice President Global Sales and Marketing at Epiroc. We jumped straight into the big questions: why are there so few female professionals within mining; especially in senior leadership roles?
Sarah offered some wisdom here from a Harvard study into recruitment patterns, noting that women tend to be more hesitant when applying for more senior roles or “stretch roles” in comparison to their male counterparts;
A stretch role means they don’t meet every criteria that’s listed. It’s been proven again and again by several studies that men are very comfortable applying for a role where they meet limited criterion that are requested, and women don’t. So you can imagine the criteria for a CEO is quite large, meaning fewer women apply for senior leadership roles.”
With the longstanding findings and the statistics that less than 15% of executive ranks are held by women, and under 20% of industry board positions, it could be easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenge ahead for gender diversity within the mining industry. However, as Michelle noted, taking risks and thinking laterally is key to change:
Thinking differently about the sorts of people that can fill roles is also important. We can bring people from the military, we can bring people from manufacturing, they don’t have to be 30-year veterans of mining or have a mining background to do some of the roles.”
While these steps may clarify our ethos, what practical steps can we take towards a mining industry that’s more gender diverse? Michelle advocates for getting in early, “working within schools and universities to attract a greater diversity of people”. She notes that there are a wealth of challenges within the industry, alongside a controversial reputation, but that approaching these issues dynamically and making these challenges sound attractive and inspiring is important.
Sarah also added that building strong connections with recruiters and headhunters is a wise step in finding more diverse candidates. When recruitment teams are aware of your specific industry and gender diversity needs, they are better placed to direct the right staff towards your positions.
In terms of retention of a gender-diverse team, Sarah offers “creating mentorship programs inside of your organisation to help women climb up the ladder within the business”. Offering continuous training and development opportunities and recognising the value of your team for their individual assets is essential to consistent retention. When it comes to gender diversity within the challenging culture of the mining industry, these efforts will be particularly appreciated by female newcomers.
Michelle recommends the deliberate inclusion of courageous leadership, “putting yourself out there and being a mentor…championing particular causes and having those conversations” that lead to inclusion with integrity and creating a strong foundation for gender diversity within the mining industry.
Michelle and Sarah’s individual company successes show that gender diversity in the mining industry is not only possible but promising for those looking to lead in the sector. Asking the tough questions, reassessing your company culture, and implementing consistent practices that nurture and encourage a diverse workplace and better gender balance are crucial to success.
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