Pushing For Gender Equality in MiningBy Paloma Duran | Wed, 06/01/2022 - 14:09
Q: How did Women in Mining emerge in Mexico?
A: Women in Mining (WIM) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization born in the UK to empower women working in the mining industry. This initiative came to Mexico in 2017. When we started here, we were a small group of nine women. Now, we have 418 women registered in 11 districts across the country. Today, women represent 15.7 percent of the mining sector’s workforce. When I began working 30 years ago, we only represented 2 percent. Although progress is achieved slowly, today, we have a significant female contribution to the mining sector, equivalent to 60,000 women in an industry that remains dominated by men. We want to encourage this upward trend. WIM is a great channel to make this happen.
Q: How is female participation in the mining workforce distributed?
A: From this 15.7 percent contribution, 40 percent are operational workers, 22 percent carry out administrative tasks and 4 percent work in executive positions. It is, therefore, in executive positions that fewer women are represented, contrary to operational positions, where our participation has grown significantly.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles that women face in the mining sector?
A: The first obstacle is the barriers we put up for ourselves. It is no secret that Mexico’s working environment is often rather sexist. Although we have been closing the gender gap and deconstructed chauvinistic patterns of behavior that inhibit professional growth for women, this culture continues to limit their participation in the male-dominated productive sectors. Women can complement male abilities. We do not seek to replace men; what we seek is to achieve substantial equity so we can access the same opportunities. We are looking to create a workforce that is equally distributed.
Q: How is WIM educating mining communities to promote the acceptance of progressive gender policies?
A: Typically, the pressure of domestic work and caregiving has limited the mobility women need to do fieldwork and, therefore, restricted their personal growth. Concerns about marriage and pregnancy are stigmas that need to be broken down in order to recognize the productive capacity women have regardless of their personal decisions, which are never questioned during the professional careers of men. Women are now fully capable and willing to do fieldwork and we will keep encouraging them to take those positions.
Q: How do you educate workers in the field to accept female leadership in the mine?
A: Many workers are reluctant to listen to and be guided by female managers. We are in the process of overcoming these stigmas. The sexist culture of our country created this reluctance to be led by a woman. Collaboration often begins more out of obligation than conviction, since the hierarchy imposes limits on disregarding instructions. However, we are seeing these barriers breaking down and the workspace thriving under the leadership of a woman.
Q: How can the growing participation of women make the mining industry more humane?
A: Mining may have a reputation as a cold industry that sacrifices social issues to exploit the land instead. Gender equality and inclusion transform the way a company operates and brings it closer to the social and environmental issues that bog down the industry’s reputation. By transforming itself from the inside, a company can generate better solutions for its environment. In accordance with this belief, WIM’s membership is inclusive. Several registered men are committed to the promotion of gender equality, such as the Director of the Mining Chamber and the Director of the Sonora Mining Cluster.
Q: How does WIM promote itself to attract new members?
A: To increase participation within WIM, we provide member-exclusive workshops and webinars. We also have an innovative program with which we seek to connect young female professionals with job opportunities in the US mining sector. Because of the demand for geologists and mining engineers, we support female applicants in their job search and visa application so that they can take on attractive professional opportunities. The only requirements are that the women need to have a bachelor's degree and an adequate English language proficiency. We are also building ties with universities to connect with female students who are looking to start their mining careers. We offer them free courses, for example.
Q: What are WIM's goals for 2022?
A: In October 2022, I will hand over the presidency to a new leader, so one of our objectives is to hold the vote and establish the new three-year administration successfully. We aim to finish this administration better than how it started. Regarding the expansion of WIM, this year, we will open chapters in Baja California and Queretaro, as well as regional chapters in Colima and Jalisco. With this, WIM will close the year with 14 districts.
Women in Mining (WIM) is a nongovernmental and nonprofit organization that was created to encourage initiatives that promote equal opportunities and working conditions for women in the Mexican mining industry.