Women make up 21% of the boards of the top 500 companies listed on the JSE, the highest percentage of women on boards worldwide, according to nonprofit organisation Women in Mining South Africa chairperson Noleen Pauls.
Pauls, who is also a geology operations manager at geological, mining and environmental consulting services company The MSA Group, was speaking at diversified technology innovator 3M’s Women in Mining conference in Johannesburg earlier this month.
She pointed out that, over the past 20 years, women representation in the South African mining sector had grown from 7% to 14% at the start of 2015. However, Pauls lamented that, by the end of 2015, the number of women in South Africa’s mining sector had decreased to 10%.
She attributed this decline to the high number of retrenchments and optimisation initiatives that mining houses had undertaken during the period, as a result of the challenging economic environment the industry found itself in.
Nonetheless, Pauls remained upbeat about the situation of women in South Africa’s mining sector as there had been increases in the representation of women in all spheres of the mining industry over the past 20 years.
“We are heading in the right direction; however, we still have a long way to go,” she stated.
Pauls highlighted that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mining Charter had played an important role in ensuring that women were better represented in the mineral resources sector in the country.
“These laws have been vital to empower women in mining in South Africa; however, women at the end of the day want to know that they got the job because they were the best candidates for the position and not just that the company had to employ them to make up the numbers,” she stressed.
Therefore, she called on women working in South Africa’s mining sector to prove that they were in fact the best mining professionals in the industry.
Pauls added that chauvinism and sexism remained substantial stumbling blocks to the development and growth of women in South Africa’s mining industry, which she emphasised were fundamental issues that had to be overcome to ensure women succeeded in the sector.