“I think loving your job is the most important thing in your success. When you love your job, you are not be afraid of failures, and by consistency and hard work you can achieve anything you want.”
Anum Razzaq is a mining engineer who believes that “if you are determined to do something, then you can definitely do it, just by focusing and persistency”. She graduated from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, with a degree of Mining Engineering. Following a series of internships in different mining companies, she joined the cement sector as a Management Trainee Engineer and was involved in blasting and drilling operations at a limestone quarry. She currently serves in the Government mining sector as an Assistant Director (Technical) at Peshawar, Pakistan. Anum is one of only two women in Pakistan who have achieved career success by breaking the stereotypes in a strongly male-dominated sector and is a strong role model for other young female mining engineers.
By Kathy Sole
Mining is not usually selected as a career choice for women in a country that is seen as valuing more traditional roles for women? Why did you choose mining as a career?
I wanted to pursue my career in a STEM field. When I choose Mining Engineering, I really had no idea what mining really is: I just went for it as there is less saturation in this field. After graduation, everyone asked me to switch fields because every mining company rejected my CV because of my gender. There were no females working in this field. After so many rejections, I did internships in different mining companies so that I may improve my chance of getting a job. I was disappointed many times, but I was consistent and continued to apply in different organizations. Finally, I got a chance in the cement sector at a limestone quarry. Although there are harsh realities of mining in my country because of less resources, I decided to prove all these people wrong and I proved it.
Please describe your career progression and your current role.
I graduated with a Degree of Mining Engineering at the end of 2019. In March 2020, I joined Askari Cement Limited, Wah, as a Management Trainee Engineer and was mainly involved in blasting and drilling operations. I remained there for 1.5 years and then I joined the Government sector of Pakistan to fulfil the role of Assistant Director (Technical). My current role aims to facilitate the implementation of good and profitable mining practices in Pakistan.
In addition to my job, I also work with an organization of engineers (Y-PEG) as Vice President (City Representative, Islamabad) which aims to lessen the unemployment of engineers in the country.
Pakistan is not well-known as a mining region. Please tell us more about the economic importance of mining to your country.
Pakistan is rich in mineral resources, but most of them are not explored yet. However, Government is struggling to provide enough resources for the exploration work with several projects. In Reko Diq Balochistan, deposits of copper and gold are attractive options for mining companies. Coal deposits in Sindh are also providing electricity and employment opportunities for much of the rural areas. Khewra salt mines are among the world’s largest and oldest salt mines. Gem resources in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and iron ore projects also contribute to the economy of country.
What is your experience of being a woman working in the mining sector? What challenges have you experienced working in an industry that is predominantly male? Do you feel you have had to adapt to ‘fit’ the industry?
At the start, I was scared of the “huge Dumpers,” but now that seems quite funny and insane. By this time, I realized it’s not an actual thing to be scared of. In fact, there are lot of other things which I had to face. Traditional attitudes towards women working in this field were a major obstacle. Moreover, mining activities are performed in remote areas and there are not enough facilities available, so it’s a bit difficult to survive in this environment. Families don’t allow girls to work far from home. Mining is considered a male-oriented sector while women are perceived as naturally weak, so you need to go extra mile to perform the tasks.
Have you had mentors or sponsors that helped you on the way?
Definitely, I had mentors who helped and guided me enough how to face the challenges and survive in this sector. Also, I would like to express gratitude to the close ones who made me strong and brave.
What are you most proud of having achieved in your career so far?
It’s a great achievement for me that I overcame all the challenges I faced in an industry that is not welcoming to women and made a pathway for other young girls.
What are you passionate about in your work and find most rewarding?
Gaining different experiences, visiting fields, analysing different mining methods, and most importantly to regulate good mining practices.
What personal and professional characteristics have been most important in enabling your career success?
I think loving your job is the most important thing in your success. When you love your job, you are not be afraid of failures and by consistency and hard work you can achieve anything you want.
Do you believe women in mining groups can help to change the image of the industry and make the sector more attractive to women and youngsters – both boys and girls?
I think women are kind-hearted and they can feel the pain of others. The presence of women in the workplace does make a good and hospitable environment for other employees and labours. By introducing women, this sector can flourish more and more.
Do you have any advice to young women starting out in their careers? What do you wish you’d known when you first entered the workplace?
Mining is a vast and challenging field in which to achieve professional excellence, which not only helps filling skills gaps in this sector, but also fights sectoral and rigid cultural stereotypes along the way. There is need to change the mind set of people that will compel more women to come forward and participate in this sector. I would say to other girls: you need to self-confident and strong. Your gender should not come in the way of your career. Just be focused and work hard.
Have you any hobbies, pastimes, or secret talents that you would like to tell us about?I love to play badminton. I enjoy travelling and exploring the mountains of Pakistan.