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Women leaders in BME ignite change in blasting industry

8th March 2024

     

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Celebrating International Women's Day, BME reflects on its efforts to champion gender diversity and empowerment in the mining sector.

Shaping this narrative at BME, part of the JSE-listed Omnia Group, are four women who exemplify leadership and innovation in the mining industry. According to Kasturi Adari, BME's GM for Human Resources, BME embraces a commitment to actively support and elevate women in the blasting industry.

"We offer equal opportunities for women in all aspects of the blasting value chain,” says Adari. “This includes recruitment, training, career advancement and leadership roles. We also ensure safe workplaces that are respectful and free from harassment, creating a supportive environment for women to thrive."

She notes that BME conducts awareness campaigns to highlight successful women within the business – sharing their stories, achievements and contributions to inspire others. There are several initiatives to recruit, retain and develop female talent, recognising the challenges in the niche explosives industry.

“We constantly review our hiring practices, using dedicated recruitment processing outsourcing (RPO) for market research to attract the best talent," she points out.

She highlights that all employees at BME have access to study assistance, noting that specialised training programmes for women, such as a rock-breaking qualification, aim to improve female representation in the field.

“Where we offered entry blasting assistant programmes to our community members in the Northern Cape, 60% of the intake were females,” she adds. “We intend to expand our offerings in the various regions where we operate.”

Adari concludes that holding company Omnia furthers this ideal, having recently launched science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) bursaries with a focus on females, addressing the challenge of getting youth interested in maths and science.

“We partner with youth development organisations like Prime Stars to assist learners with additional classes,” she says. Omnia has also launched a Leadership Excellence in Action Programme (LEAP) in collaboration with Duke and Rhodes University – where 35% of BME attendees were women.

“There is a huge focus on soft skills training, conflict resolution and courageous leadership, as this enhances team effectiveness,” she adds. “We recognise that by investing in education, we empower women to excel in their roles and to have a meaningful career path.”.

Queeneth Vikisi, Business Development Manager at Mining Chemicals, BME’s sister company in the Omnia Group’s mining division, shares her perspective on the influential role women play in mining.

"Mining includes several disciplines that are attractive to young women,” says Vikisi. “Mining-related fields including geology, environmental science, surveying and other engineering disciplines are attracting new talent today. What inspires young women is seeing other women succeed and excel in their fields, as it encourages them to pursue their own goals and passions. These role models become living examples of what’s possible despite circumstances and backgrounds.”

Reflecting on her role in the chemical sector, Vikisi acknowledges industry challenges but sees these as an opportunity to learn, through a continuous process of solving problems.

Among the ways Vikisi has contributed to the growth of BME has been by creating project pipelines and advising on new technologies. “The mining industry is tough and very reluctant to change; it is also quite process-sensitive,” she notes.

Nelisile Thanjekwayo, Head of Legal at BME, stands as a beacon for others, embodying the spirit of International Women's Day and reinforcing BME's dedication to a diverse and empowering workplace.

“Landing a scholarship with one of South Africa’s top law firms was the foundation of my legal career, setting the tone for milestones to come,” Says Thanjekwayo.

Her leadership journey is marked by dedication, earning her recognition as one of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans. Thanjekwayo attributes her department’s success to a collaborative and inclusive leadership style, emphasising teamwork and communication.

“I believe in advocating for the growth of each team member, understanding their personal career goals, and ensuring their overall well-being through one-on-one catch-up sessions,” she states.

She spearheaded initiatives for a more inclusive work environment, notably contract management projects, facilitating collaboration and contributing to an increasingly inclusive workplace.

Reiterating the importance of women leadership in an organisation, BME credit manager Maria Sequeira highlights that it fosters a culture of trust, collaboration and accountabiilty. “I've empowered team members to take ownership of their responsibilities and strive for excellence, ensuring they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to adapt to evolving industry trends and challenges,” she adds.

According to BME Managing Director Ralf Hennecke, fostering diversity, equality and sustainable development in the blasting industry requires a concerted effort to support and elevate the participation of women.

“At BME, we are committed to creating an inclusive environment where women can thrive and contribute to the industry's success,” he emphasises. “We proudly support the global movement for gender equality, recognising crucial issues that women face every day. We continue working together towards a more inclusive and diverse mining sector.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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