Jessica Elzea Kogel: Q&A

Published: 15/10/2013

With 25 years in the mining industry, the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) president Jessica, Elzea Kogel, recalls being one of just a few women in senior management and in a technical role in her company. CIM eReporter caught up with Kogel prior to the Women in Mining forum to discuss her thoughts on diversity; her hope is that one day the industry will be so inclusive that there won’t be the need for such an event.

CIM eReporter: What issues do you expect to be addressed at the forum?

Jessica Elzea Kogel: There are going to be people retiring over the next 10, 15 and 20 years and that’s going to generate a discussion about how we’re going to fill the gap. Companies are starting to really focus on looking at ways to start changing their workforce, in terms of its composition. This brings up issues of diversity because traditionally we’ve had a very male-dominated workforce. I think the reason there is a lot of interest in women is because there are a lot more women in the pipeline, in terms of mining engineers and geologists in school now.

CIM eReporter: What makes mining different from other disciplines?

Jessica Elzea Kogel: I think certainly the work balance because of the travel often associated with a job in mining and having remote worksites is definitely unique to mining compared to other engineering disciplines. We see the same thing in the military: there’s a real resistance and fear in bringing women into a worksite that has always been a single gender. That just creates a whole other layer of management issues. I think people also have this perception, or maybe reluctance, to hire women because they feel that women don’t have the physical ability to do the job. I hear that from time to time, but I don’t think that’s nearly as big of an issue.

CIM eReporter: What needs to change to make mining more attractive to women?

Jessica Elzea Kogel: Women want to have flexibility or the ability to still be professionals, as well as moms and wives. Yet traditionally, if you see men that are very successful, they have a wife that is really doing all the child rearing. Really, what we’re talking about is making changes in the workplace that don’t just benefit women, but families as well. Men want the same thing – they want to be with their children and they want to be with their families. These are not things that are gender-specific necessarily, but it’s a great reason to talk about it and start thinking about how we can make these changes to become more family-friendly.

CIM eReporter: Have you ever felt discriminated against as a woman in mining?

Jessica Elzea Kogel: I’ve never felt discriminated or had any real issues. I’ve always felt very supported and accepted. I haven’t had a lot of experiences where I’ve just seen this huge change or anything. It’s been small incremental things, because in my role, I get to make some of those changes for my workplace. Maybe that’s why I don’t see big changes, because I’m kind of in control of them.

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