Mining has traditionally been made of a predominately male workforce, and although the trend is that males still dominate the mining industry, there are signs in recent years that indicate that there is a growing role for women in the mining industry.
However even though it appears that there are more women in mining than in past years, from what I can see it seems that women continue to be highly over represented in certain sectors of the mining industry such as clerical, healthcare and human resources. Whilst men still seem to be over represented in trades, operator and labourer jobs. For the mining industry which is very labour intensive, this generally means an over representation of males. It is however not only the mining industry which is over represented by males; it is also happening in the construction, as well as the oil and gas and utilities industries.
It is not easy to find statistics as to exactly what percentage of the mining industry in Canada is made up of women, but a 2010 report by Women in Mining Canada, which used the most recent data available from statistics Canada, stated that as far back as in 2006, 14% of the Canadian workforce was made up of women. What was interesting to note was that the majority of these women were in administrative or culinary positions.
According to an article by Catalyst, women in 2011 only represented around 11.2% of the Construction industry in Canada and 9.0% in the US. In Mining and the oil and gas extraction industries they represented around 19.0% in Canada, and around 13.2% in the US, and in Utilities around 24.7% in Canada and 23.3% in the US.
Some other interesting stats in the article by Catalyst was as to how few women there are in certain occupations, many of these relevant to the mining industry.
It seems that the main reasons that the mining industry has failed in the past to attract women over the years, not only in Canada but worldwide, was mainly around hours that were generally not flexible, as well as the gender pay gaps that existed. Employment in mining is often characterised by working in remote locations, where one is involved in hard physical labour and very long work shifts. This has been very discouraging for women considering a career in mining, especially for those who have children.
Many companies not only in Canada, but around the world, have tried really hard in recent years to find ways to improve the workplace for women, ranging from trying to introduce more flexible work practices as well as working closely with educational institutes to try to attract more women to the mining industry. They have also worked hard to address the issues of gender pay gaps. Many mining companies have now instituted parent friendly work rosters and shifts, as well as improving the work conditions. Many have introduced onsite childcare, extended maternity leave, couples on site housing, as well as gender inclusive work environments. With all these efforts being made to attract women to the industry, it seems that there are definitely changes taking place in the industry and there is definitely a place for women in mining. Attitudes around women in the mining industry have also shifted and for the better.
The invention of organisations such as Women in Mining, which is a global operation with a voice all over the world, has created an opportunity for those women who are working in mining, or considering working in the mining industry, to connect with each other all over the world. This has in turn drawn a lot of attention to the inequalities in the mining industry. However there is still a long way to go when you look at the numbers, but progress has been made.
A recent report from the Mining Association of Canada said that companies in the mining sector will need to hire at least 14 000 people over the next decade to replace those who are going to be retiring and to fill new positions. With many mining companies worldwide needing to address their skills shortages, women not only in Canada but also worldwide, continue to be a massive untapped talent pool available, but not being properly utilised. It is very important for mining companies to continue to consider strategies towards recruiting women into this under represented sector. It is vital that young girls and women be informed about the career opportunities available to them in the mining industry.