Diversity and Inclusion: It all starts with a dream...
No secret, the mining industry and other extractive businesses have been mostly led by male professionals worldwide. Many cultures set specific gender expectations for males and females, in relation to all aspects of their lives. Understanding the political and cultural landscape of where a company operates is a good starting point for changes. But is it enough and how do we make a positive impact and progress from there?
Perceptions and Biases
Today still, the mining activity is associated with tough physical work, in highly demanding, remote environments where individuals are away from their families for periods of time. In many locations, this type of work conditions is seen as inappropriate for women. Add to this that for decades if not centuries there have been myths about female’s presence on a mine site being related to accidents, bad luck, decrease in ore quality and productivity, especially in underground operations. Sounds like something from the past? We heard it recently during one of our assignments.
Change is coming
Fortunately, the mining sector worldwide seems to be going through a cultural transformation, following on the steps of other industries. At the very least, companies are adopting or modifying some of their policies and procedures. According to an article presented by the Development Partner Institute at the DPI Advisory Council “Inclusion and diversity are becoming a priority for the [mining] sector, in line with global evidence that high-performing organizations incorporate diverse teams and inclusive approaches in both their day-to-day operations and in long-term decisionmaking”. The moment for change is now and it starts with everyone, from top to bottom.
This is supported by an article published in 2018 by “Mining [dot] Com”: “Having a diverse workforce is no longer a differentiator. In today’s business environment, it is a minimum requirement when recruiting and retaining top talent. Recent global studies by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and by McKinsey & Company confirm there is a positive relationship between diversity and business performance and that diversity in leadership roles matters most. According to the McKinsey & Company study, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams outperform on profitability and value creation”. The conclusion seems clear: as women’s participation increases, value creation and profitability improve. According to the authors, the mining industry has made progress to improve gender diversity. But much more is still needed. Indeed, amongst the top 500 mining companies, only 7.9% of board members are female and the number of women in executive management pipelines is falling (PwC’s Mining for Talent 2015 report).
The movement might have started, change might be coming but not everywhere and certainly not at the same rate.
The following chart shows the percentage of female representation in Executive Committees and Boards worldwide. For the Latin America’s Region, the level of female participation is particularly low (only 8% and 5% respectively).
While Board’s composition is crucial, it is only the visible part of the iceberg. For the mining industry, the challenge is to increase female participation at all levels, in all roles, in all locations. How to do it is the question that many of our clients ask.
Identifying Obstacles, Sharing ideas and best practices
In the past 18 months, Globe 24-7 has hosted several Round Table Events on the topic of Diversity and Inclusion, allowing us and our clients to compare approaches and to learn from the work performed by many, including Globe 24-7 that has worked on this topic in several places around the world such as: Canada, Australia, several countries in Africa, Philippines, Nicaragua, Colombia and Peru. Understanding the different cultural views of the topic, identifying common as well as unique obstacles and organisational barriers that mining companies face, reviewing what is done by others, are crucial steps towards creating solutions.
Another issue identified in the report as presenting a large performance gap is tracking the levels of workers’ wages against living wage standards, or legal minimum wage. While respecting legal minimum wages is a must that doesn’t require much explanation, the concept of living wages is still in its infancy, its definition subject to much debate, which might explain the low performance noted in this area.
Focus on Latin America: Peru and Colombia
In Peru’s case, there has been a common perception for the past 10 years that more women are joining the industry. The reality is in fact that there has been a decrease from 6.4% on 2008 to 5.4% female participation rate in 2018. In the words of Lita Calenzani, a leader in the Peruvian mining industry for over 30 years: “Mining is a strategic industry for Peru, contributing around 10% of GDP and employing nearly 200,000 people in 2017. Yet, the participation of women in the sector is limited and only reaches 5.4% of the total mining industry workforce according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Looking more closely at these figures, 49% of women are dedicated to administrative positions; 30% are in general operations; 17% work as plant personnel and only 4% hold management positions”.
Furthermore, the study presented at the “The World Economic Forum, in its Global Gender Gap Report for 2017 that gathered data from 144 countries, reflects this worrying situation, stating that the gap between male and female workers will only disappear in 217 years time (so, in 2234). Peru ranks 128th out of 144 countries, so we would be talking of centuries before we see the elimination of the salary gap”.
For the participants to our Round Table Event in Lima which took place on the 5th of June 2019 (Barrick, Brexia GoldPlata, Goldfields, Minsur, SNC Lavalin, Vale Explorations, Volcan, Austrade and Women in Mining Peru), there are multiple variables that significantly influence the slow progress of female inclusion shown in the statistics. The Peruvian belief system stood out as an important one. It was acknowledged that Peru is generally a conservative country, where the great majority of the population has specific conceptions about men and women’s roles in society. Most mining sites in Peru are in remote areas at the highlands where communities have limited access to education and financial wealth. There is a widespread misconception and limiting belief that:
1. Females typically can’t work at the mine sites because they are not “strong enough” or not perceived to be intellectually capable to develop in nontraditional roles;
2. The environmental conditions and work systems are too demanding and, in many cases, not viable for mothers;
3. the perception that it is not profitable to hire women because of potential absences related to pregnancy, maternity or even dysmenorrhea.
While this seems unsurmountable, the good news is that many companies are in the process of either auditing their current situation or developing and implementing change management approaches. Over the last couple of years, some of them have been evaluating their current context in order to adapt their organisational culture and environment to be more genderfriendly, as well as identifying alliance opportunities to promote inclusion and diversity in their influence zones or implementing actions such as reviewing policies and procedures, establishing processes to guarantee equal conditions to all, implementing programs targeted at females in non-traditional roles. However, it was recognised that many of these initiatives are isolated or not part of an integrated approach and see as an HR topic only.
Participants also highlighted the many positive points they have experienced. We would like to share some of their observations, such as the fact that some have found “female employees are very responsible and committed to their jobs, they are punctual, organized and eager to learn. They show a positive attitude and take care of their equipment, even more so when compared to some men.”
Other comments were “that for the most part females tend to be thoughtful and respectful of the safety rules”. Actually, “the index of accidents related to women are almost inexistent because they are very careful and aware of the risks they face during their duties. Even if they are experienced on a specific subject, they would take the needed preventions to avoid accidents”.
They also mentioned “females are clean and tidy with their uniforms and workplace. For example, it is easy to know if a man or a woman has been driving a truck because when a female gives the equipment back it’s always neat”.
While some of these observations could be perceived as reinforcing some ‘clichés’, they are very important in the context of Peru and the challenges companies faced with the local culture and the perception of women in the mining industry.
Obviously, the ‘pipeline of candidates’ problem was also commented on - Promoting and attracting female students to technical careers is an important piece of the puzzle. Some companies with a long-term approach, support activities or programs at Universities and Academies or even high schools that promote diversity and opportunities within the mining industry. Now in Peru, over 85% of students in Mining Engineering, Metallurgy and Mechanics are men. On the other hand, female population is slowly increasing in Geology, Civil and Environmental engineering.
Globe hosted the Gender Diversity and Inclusion Round Table Event that took place in Medellin in May 2019 with the participation of ACM (Colombian Mining Association), Austrade and the Australian Embassy, Colombian Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Cerrejón (Anglo American Plc/BHP Group/ Glencore Plc), Minesa (Mubadala Group), AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Mining, Miraflores (Metminco), Epiroc, Gran Colombia Gold, South32, Fura Gems, Mineria Texas de Colombia, Sandvik Colombia, Liebherr Colombia, Alfa Laval, Baker McKenzie.
Not only the challenges and obstacles toward greater diversity and inclusion were discussed, but also the practical and tactical approaches needed to combat the status quo. Colombia has been “up and coming” in the mining industry and companies are preoccupied with ensuring that they do it right from the start.
A particularity of Colombia is the Equipares Certification, and it was discussed at length. It is an initiative from the Colombian Working Ministry together with the Presidential High Advisory team for Gender Balance (ACPM) in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program (PNUD) that evaluates companies and their gender equality programs, with a focus on policies and procedures. Approximately 30 companies across all sectors have acquired this certification, with only one from the mining industry. Other mining companies have started on that path but all recognised that while necessary, policies and procedures are only the beginning.
Where do we go from here?
There is not one answer, as each company and each situation is quite unique. There are however key steps to consider on a journey to greater diversity and inclusion, and as for all journeys, the first step is often the decisive one.
1) Diagnose and understand where the obstacles and challenges are at the organisational and individual levels. What are the internal opportunities and challenges (policies, programs structures but also leadership, company’s culture and decisionmaking mechanisms) How is the company perceived, experienced and lived by its own employees on this topic? What are the external opportunities and challenges (societal, cultural, legal, etc.)?
2) Educate and engage – with your staff as “promoting inclusion often requires working within the system first, in order to change it” (Chico Tillmon, Executive Director of YMCA Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative) but also with communities and other external stakeholders. Consultation, communication, awareness and education are keys: “Education is a crucial pathway to inclusion and diversity” (Chico Tillmon).
3) Create a strategy and design an action plan. Diversity and in particular Inclusion, is not simply a ‘number game’. Cultural transformation requires time, dedication, integrated approach, measures and accountability but also champions, sponsors, coaches and the support from all levels and areas of the business. And empathy: “Empathy enables us to go beyond deeply-held cultural beliefs–such as the belief that women can’t be leaders or have families while working – and effect change. We must require people in business to have the confidence to engage empathetically. (…) Addressing that means creating room intentionally and empathetically for people so that diverse voices can be heard in ways that positively influence mines and their role in communities” (Development Partner Institute).
4) Finally, it is worth considering how technology is advancing and how it might impact on talent related decisions, such as recruitment (automated first selection, gender-neutral resumes) and promotion (performance management systems, online training, etc.).
It all starts with a dream
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…” Dr. Martin Luther King, 1963
Juan David Viñas
Business Development Manager, LATAM
Lucero De la Puente,
Business Development Manager, Peru
Manager, Global Business Development
Manager, Global HR Consulting
About Globe 24-7
Globe 24-7 is a Human Resources Consulting, Recruitment, and Staff Selection company focused on the mining industry at a worldwide level.
Globe 24-7 has placed itself in the major markets of the world to ensure search campaigns and consulting assignments can be effectively managed at both site and corporate offices and has grown internationally to now service small, mid-tier and large-scale companies through its Project Recruitment, Search, HR Consulting and HR Systems divisions.