Empowering women is ‘critical’ in the mining industry – Teke

Published: 05/10/2016

Originally published by Mining Review Africa – September 2016.

Southern Africa

Chamber of Mines president Mike Teke says the empowerment of women is critical to help the mining industry deliver on its transformation objectives.

Speaking at the “Innovation in Mining Workshop” hosted by Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA) on the sidelines of the Electra Mining Africa 2016 trade show held in Johannesburg this week,  Teke reaffirmed the mining industry’s commitment to transformation, noting that in a transforming country, mining is continually challenged to deliver on its transformation objectives.

The representation of women in the mining sector has improved significantly from around 11 400 in 2002 to around 53 000 women working in the mining industry in 2015, with women now representing more than 10% of people employed in mining activities.

Chamber of Mines of South Africa President Mike Teke

While the industry acknowledges the significant increase in the number of women in the sector since the laws preventing them from working underground were scrapped, more needs to be done to ensure that yet more women feel that the mining industry is one in which they have a career and a future.

“We need to ensure that women employees are safe in their jobs. This is both in the more general sense that all our employees must be safe, but – maybe more importantly – in ways specific to the reality of being a woman working underground,” he says.

Teke illustrated the reality of women’s lives in South Africa is one where they are often at risk of harassment, sexual violence and possible death at the hands of the men that work around them.

“While we actively recruit women to work in all areas of our operations, we would be failing in our duty of care towards our employees if we did not ensure they are coming into jobs where they are safe, he noted, pointing out that this was an area that the Chamber of Mines had spent a lot of time investigating, and coming up with recommendations.”

Teke says that a reason to fight to transform the industry at all levels is to ensure long-term survival and growth – which will, in turn, ensure that the industry continues to contribute to the future of South Africa as a whole.

“We have to be able to work in a world where skin colour and gender are not an impediment to people’s dreams and aspirations. Until we get there, we are going to have to create a level playing field. And that means transformation programmes must be put in place and must work,” says Teke.

“Lip service is simply not an option. Let it make way for lipstick,” he concludes.