Doris Vega
Vice President Mexico
WIM
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Reaching Equality for Women in Mining Is an Ongoing Process

By Alejandro Salas | Fri, 05/27/2022 - 08:54

Q: What were the strategies WIM implemented in 2021 to help improve the situation of women in the mining sector?

A: 2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the association because we had to start adapting to the new reality by transitioning all strategies and yearly work plans to the virtual environment. One of our main objectives is to offer training to women in the mining industry. The association firmly believes that when opportunities come along, we must be ready to take them. That is why we now focus our work plan on training. During the pandemic, we adapted to virtual channels and did several webinars focused on training women in all areas of the mining sector. For example, we instructed women involved in operations in administrative and leadership skills. This has allowed us to adapt to the new environment while providing new opportunities and development.

Q: Latin America’s macho culture has been one of the main challenges to achieving equal opportunities. What is the best approach to change this culture?

A: One of the strategies we implemented is to create visibility for the work women do. Above all, WIM highlights the distinct added value that women have brought to this industry, in which the male presence has historically been domineering. The main problem is that the industry is not at all adapted to accommodate women. The skills of these women entering the industry, though they were ignored for a long time, show the wealth of value they offer. It showed the sector the importance of attracting more women to the industry.

However, there is still a significant gender parity gap in terms of working conditions. The industry still lacks suitable environments that are adapted to the biological, social and family needs of women. The challenge is to achieve this adaptation. Unfortunately, mining operations often still have only one bathroom, with no gender differentiation. Other basic issues are the lack of differentiation in uniforms, maternity and paternity leave and day care centers, among other issues.

Together with the industry, WIM is helping transform the awareness on these issues and adapting conditions to women and their distinct necessities, from those who decide to start a family to those who decide not to. We are all working to build a more equal sector.

Q: What do companies stand to gain by taking on a more inclusive gender approach in their hiring processes?

A: The teams that use diversity as a differentiator are the ones that reach an exceptional performance because it is more enriching to have the best of both worlds. These are highly productive teams that contribute more value to their companies. Recent studies show that companies with women in their leadership teams have been able to increase their profits by 15 percent compared to those that do not have any female participation in key positions.

In mining operations, teams managed by women reach a higher performance and feel more cared for, companies have said. Femininity is an important differentiator. For instance, researchers attribute a greater capacity for negotiation to women, as well as more empathetic leadership and greater creativity. These characteristics have resulted in a better appreciation for the presence of women because the industry has seen a positive change after becoming more diverse.

Q: How can companies and educational institutions collaborate to accelerate this change toward inclusivity?

A: If we keep the same pace, we will have to wait 100 years to see a change regarding inclusion. Nevertheless, I do not think that society, with all its social movements, will allow such a long time to pass. As women, we are becoming more conscious about this paradigm shift every day. Society, governments and industries all want more women in leading positions.

WIM works on spreading inclusive ideas through role models, women who occupy important positions inside the mining industry or who work in jobs not typically done by women. We want to show the world that a woman can be a metallurgist, a geologist or a machine operator but also a manager or a CEO. WIM seeks to make these roles visible and aims to inspire new generations. The government, the mining industry and its institutions lack the reach to eliminate gender stereotypes. WIM wants to amplify this reach.  

Q: What are WIM’s plans for this year?

A: For us, it is especially important to continue visualizing the role of women in the mining industry. We will continue working on that hand in hand with CAMIMEX. Training has yielded impressive results. We want to ensure there are growth opportunities for all our female colleagues and that they are prepared to grab their chance when it arrives. We also hope to publish a call for an award for inclusive mining. We will grant this award to companies involved in affirmative action and improving the conditions for women.

 

Women in Mining (WIM) is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to boost initiatives that promote equal opportunities and labor conditions for women in the mining sector. It has an inclusive vision focused on spreading good practices and the image of mining as a strategic sector for economic development.

Alejandro Salas Alejandro Salas Senior Editorial Manager