International Women in Mining: Inclusivity in mining

Barbara Dischinger and Camila Reed from International Women in Mining discuss the organisation’s tireless work to promote and build inclusion in the industry.

Since its creation in 2007, International Women in Mining (IWiM) has never wavered in its pursuit of increased diversity. It was formed to provide a solution for several gaps in the industry that Barbara Dischinger, founder and Director of the group, saw at the time, among the most important being that there were very few mining groups for women. IWiM acts as a bridge for them to be able to get to know about and speak to each other and pursue projects to help women get ahead in the sector. IWiM also represents women not affiliated with local Women in Mining (WIM) chapters giving them a voice. Dischinger is proud to have well over 10,000 members of the group and fully expects that to continue expanding.

As if to complement what IWiM does the industry has, of course, evolved. Increased levels of automation have created more jobs and opportunities for women in mining, and legislative rules around female mining professionals have changed.

“It depends on which country you’re in,” says Camila Reed, Head of Social Media. “In some nations it’s been illegal, or been seen as bad luck, for women to be underground and that’s changed in some places since we began in 2007. Then there have been other important changes, like having some female CEOs at the helm of mining companies, and many more mining companies are becoming focussed on getting women onto boards and executive committees. A number also have targets and bonuses linked to diversity KPIs. Plus, we now have members in 100 countries and there are women in mining groups quite literally all over the world – that in itself is a big change.”

These are the women that IWiM strive to shine a spotlight upon, profiling them regularly on the organisation’s website, and it has also highlighted the role of under-represented artisanal women miners, who are often almost invisible. Securing better rights for them and legislative changes for all women in mining is a priority.

Alongside this, IWiM strives to create real change in the working conditions and opportunities offered to women, help form a pipeline of women in senior positions and the ability to connect with other women in mining around the world. “We do this via our projects and our liaison role with local WIM chapters all over the world,” says Dischinger.

An important component of developing the discussion around women in mining is having role models for women and girls to aspire to. Many women come to mining never having seen another woman do the job they are engaged in. IWiM’s photo gallery showcases how women are everywhere in the mining sector from truck drivers to mining engineers to executives in the boardroom. “By showing women in a variety of jobs we can help inspire girls into the sector,” says Reed.

There are distinct advantages to having increased diversity in mining – advantages that International Women in Mining is vocal about communicating.

“There is a very strong economic case for it,” says Reed. “The McKinsey study shows that there are enormous monetary benefits to having more women in the boardroom. Some mining companies, like BHP and Rio Tinto, have worked that out for themselves, and another plus is that you get an increased breadth of ideas when you involve women. There is so much more creativity flowing when you have diversity of thought brought in by people with different backgrounds. Gender is only one component. Those two things speak loudly enough.”

To boost its impact on increased diversity in mining further, IWiM launched the International Women in Resources Mentoring Programme back in March – a six-month programme sponsored by a number of organisations and companies like Rio Tinto, Lundin Mining and Agnico Eagle. Some 42 women in the industry from across 16 countries have been paired with their mentors. The programme has been well received by everyone so far and a new intake is being planned for next year, launching at Indaba in February 2019.

“Normally something like this would be regional or national, but this is international with mentees and mentors from everywhere,” says Dischinger. “That makes all the difference for the mentors as well. They are all very senior in their careers, but they might have only worked in one country – now they’re being matched with someone from another country. So, it’s enriching for mentors as well as mentees, possibly in a wider way than other programmes.”

IWiM always wants to do more, and its only real limit is time. In terms of ambition, new projects for the organisation are always being thought up and planned out. As well as planning for next year’s mentorship programme, it is making substantial changes to its research team, boosting the numbers and areas of research and collaborating with more partners like Adam Smith International and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Research is critical as many countries don’t collect data around women in the sector, which makes it more difficult to impact legislation, benchmark progress and make their lives better. Hence, this is a priority for the organisation, alongside helping set up more WIM groups, highlighting role models and expanding its board to include more voices.

“We also have the IWiM SpeakUp programme,” says Reed, “which is about getting more women speaking at conferences not just about ‘gender issues’ but as mining experts. The drive now is to actually work with companies and help them to position their women, or be more flexible about letting their women take speaker opportunities. The final thing we’re launching is a corporate membership scheme, in order to get more sponsorship for our projects.”

One has to hope that this inspirational drive to achieve greater inclusion in mining will pick up pace. “We have a cohort of champions – women and men,” says Dischinger. “There’s nothing specific in terms of expanding that conversation of inclusion that’s different to other STEM sectors, or to business generally. It’s about talking to people. We have men on our board and are looking for more, and diversity is a conversation that we have day-to-day.”

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