ASKING MORE OF THE SECTOR A question and answer session at the 2022 Women and Leadership in Mining event saw questions being asked of the male-dominated sector
This year’s second yearly Women and Leadership in Mining 2023 event – themed Develop, Unite, Empower – aims to attract over 200 women in various positions across the mining sector to uplift, empower and celebrate women in the sector.
The event, hosted by conferencing and training specialists Pinpoint Stewards, will be held on August 30 and 31 at the Indaba Hotel, in Fourways, Johannesburg.
“We currently have 11 talented speakers, sourced from within South Africa, who will address our attendees over the two-day period, and prove that the leaders of tomorrow are right here,” says Pinpoint Stewards co-owner Ankia Roux.
She enthuses that the event has garnered a larger-than-expected amount of interest from mining houses, leading the organisers to book a larger venue to accommodate a larger-than-anticipated attendance.
The event is strategically held in Women’s Month to boost the relevance of women and the role they play in the sector.
“Women are currently not well represented in the workforce or in top positions, hence the drive to empower women in the sector through mentorship and open conversation.”
The event was conceptualised to bring women together to develop, unite and empower each other, share conversations, talk business and move towards doubling the amount of women in the mining sector by 2025 as per the Minerals Council of South Africa’s proposed stretch targets, adds Roux.
She notes that many mining companies are now taking on the challenge of empowering women more seriously by creating organisational structures and policies to fast-track the appointment of competent women to key positions.
“Some mines have committed to reaching a quota of about 30% women in [their] workforce, not as a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise, but a real effort for change and opportunity.”
In this regard, Roux points out that the number of women working in the mining sector has increased significantly over the years, from about 11 400 in 2002 to 56 691 in 2019.
However, studies undertaken and released in 2021 have shown that women represent a mere 12% of South Africa’s total mining labour force of 454 861 people.
Getting the Ball Rolling
In a greater effort to attract women to the mining industry, Roux says such efforts start with educating young women at school level about the options and career paths in the sector.
She suggests that the hosting of career days, and/or distribution of information leaflets in schools by mining companies, would advance awareness, but that such actions are currently not undertaken.
In general, youth in schools are left to rely on school career councillors, who do not have a clear understanding of the mining industry and its possibilities.
She adds that, generally, human nature dictates that a person will pursue a vocation that they are familiar with, such as wanting to become a doctor, nurse, dentist, teacher or an architect, among others.
“Mining jobs seem invisible, and unless the opportunities for young women are spelt out, there will be no major influx of new blood into this sector.”
The youth are not provided with enough information to make an informed and long-term vocational choice, but “mining houses can change that mindset”, she says.
As a young public relations graduate, Roux was employed at South African mining company Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) as an intern and was excited to learn that the world of mining existed, where employees were looked after by a financial giant in a small town.
She was employed in the public relations department of RBM that was, at the time, staffed by 21 professionals, mostly women.
Hard Topic in a Hard Sector
Roux stresses that although Women and Leadership in Mining will focus on empowering women in the workforce, it also aims to educate mines and the predominantly male-led industry that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) must be taken more seriously.
SGBV is a term that encompasses harmful acts perpetrated against a person’s will, based on gender norms and unequal power relationships.
“Many employees, and mostly women, are not aware that telling a dirty joke at work constitutes sexual harassment, and unless women are aware of their rights, they can’t fight back.”
Roux adds that the new Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment, came into effect on March 18, 2022. The Code, issued in terms of the Employment Equity Act, replaces the previous Code of Good Practice on Handling Sexual Harassment cases in the Workplace.
Harassment in the workplace, specifically in the mining sector, is rife, she states, adding that, unless behaviours change, the law must be enforced at all levels to curb the issue.
Pinpoint Stewards hosts workshops that specifically address the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment and employers are legally obliged to align company policies with this code.
“Companies must align their company policies and procedures with the new Codes of Good Practice for the benefit of men and women and against being litigated themselves,” she concludes.