Máryuris Mendoza is 38 years old, Professional in Social Work, graduate of the University of Antioquia, Specialist in Corporate Social Responsibility of the University of Medellin, and Master in Corporate Social Responsibility of the Polytechnical University of Valencia, Spain. She has 15 years of professional experience, 13 of them dedicated to the gold mining sector in the Antioqueño Bajo Cauca. She is a mother of two boys, they are the propulsors and the anchor in her life.
1 – Globe 24-7: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Máryuris: I started at the Mineros Group in August 2007, as a university student of Social Work, at the time in my life in which I became professionally and emotionally connected to the well-established mining activity. I was dazzled, not only by the shine of gold, but to know that the organization I worked for was really striving to minimize the negative impacts it generates. The best thing was to discover there was willingness to leverage our presence in communities with precarious conditions, to find opportunities to transform their realities.
I have been at all stages of the mining process: exploration, both alluvial and underground operations, and now I am part of the team that prepares the terrain to the point where Mineros Group is ready to move to other areas of the country and Latin America.
2 – Globe 24-7: In October 2016 BHP Billiton set out to obtain a gender balance at all organizational levels by 2025- At that time they were at a 16% women’s participation ratio and that percentage has been growing significantly since then. What is the Mining Group currently doing regarding Diversity and Inclusion programs? Is there a plan in place?
Máryuris: Mineros Group have been betting on gender-focused work, since 2018, when, through agreements with the MAPP OAS and other international cooperation agencies, participated in surveys and strategies for peace agreements in the region. It was found that women were the ones most at risk of infringement of their rights, because of the different forms of violence that we suffer. Therefore the company, decided to undertake an ambitious project that achieved the connection of USAID so that in 4 years, since 2019, to be implemented strategies for the inclusion and empowerment of women, in the Economic, Political and Cultural areas of the subregion of the Bajo Cauca antioqueño. The program is called Mujeres de Oro Women of Gold), and in this first year of implementation we can say it has been very positive women participation, which means it is a great commitment to the different interest groups involved in the process.
But since you can’t pretend to fix it outside, without having the house in order, internally, we are initiating a survey on equity from a gender perspective. It involves the revision of a large volume of information in which all the ar organization processes, because we need to know how we are doing, from the design and selection of people for different positions at different levels of the organization, through the training processes, wage policy, promotion, communication and reconciliation of family and work life, but while we finish this survey, we are aware of our gaps and introducing changes in the culture of the organization.
3 – Globe 24-7: As a woman industry leader, what would you say to all gender colleagues wanting to find a job within the industry or wanting to further develop their careers in Mining?
Máryuris: First, I would like us to start by considering the cultural burden that mining is for men. There are risks, it develops in harsh environments, it generates impacts to ecosystems, but precisely we (women) are the ones to raise awareness in the organizations we work for, of those impacts and of the possibilities of generating new realities around mining.
Mining deserves to be tackled with a more comprehensive and inclusive perspective, and without it sounding cliché. We can be very thorough in the analysis of the environment, an indispensable condition to manage the risks of all kinds associated with mining activity, not to mention that there is no difference in our skills for learning the techniques and technologies currently being developed in the mining operations. There are no off-limits trades for us. What still happens is that the workplaces are not designed to be operated by both men and women, and much less by people with different abilities or reduced mobility. Instead of it posing as an obstacle, we can take it on as an opportunity to better improve our companies’ facilities, as well as standards and procedures.
4 – Globe 24-7: Within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, they have established Gender Equity which shows that there is still evidence of outstanding work related to this issue and points to the adoption of certain public policies to achieve the commitment. Is the Colombian Government working on this to achieve the articulation of all possible Stakeholders?
Máryuris: I will have to refer to the local level, which is the most immediate scenario and where national policies for the protection of women’s rights should have been materialized. I must say that while progress has been made in the inclusion of gender-focus discourse in the public agenda, and there is a protectionist regulation, so far there has not been a real implementation of actions that are transformative of the reality of women in a society with deep sexist background. In the state institutions they have not managed to accommodate women’s issues. In El Bagre for example, only the most recent administration is talking about forming a “Direction of Women” and this will be a good advance if the objective of showing routes for care for violented women.
In short, my answer is that the Colombian government is working to articulate some interest groups, but it is slow, it is necessary to act now and involve more stakeholders. I really wish that as we agree on the use of inclusive language, we would act more and that society had more people who felt part of it, because they want to value and protect women, and not just because they are told to do so.
5 – Globe 24-7: If we review the overall data in the industry the numbers of women on site are much lower than at the corporate level in all regions worldwide. In your opinion what can be done at the mining site level to attract, retain and promote women in mining? Are there any common obstacles or barriers to success at this point that you have experienced?
Máryuris: As I have stated earlier, there are indeed many opportunities for improvement in the adequacy or design of sites and jobs in the mining operation, because they are traditionally reviewed based on occupational hazard and not comfort, which according to the physical and physiological characteristics of people, there are different demands.
Yes, in addition to cultural barriers, I have encountered physical barriers, for example, in dredgers (Alluvial Operation Units – floating) there were no toilets for women, even though there are engineers in the production areas, SST analysts, Operators of Drags whose turn is equal to that of men. The same was the case at the different levels of underground mines (200 m deep): work uniforms were made in large sizes for men and we always had to fix them. It is undeniable that we’ve been having small victories.
To retain women’s talent in mining, it is necessary to allow ourselves to show that we are not gaining relevance because the company decided to enter the trend of female empowerment, but because we have effectively earned a place in all corporate world spaces, from operational to managerial levels; we don’t want to be given anything, we can compete on an equal footing, without bias, without myths.
6 – Globe 24-7: What is something companies can do to make a positive impact on gender equity within the mining industry?
Máryuris: In my opinion, mining companies should have an impact on the cultural transformation of the territories where they operate. They must promote the technical, technological and professional training of local women and men because these initiatives will break taboos. Outwardly, companies should reflect on the kind of society they want to live in.
About Globe 24-7
Globe 24-7 (Globe) has been conducting human resources consulting and search assignments for local and international mining, power and energy companies around the world for over a decade. Globe has offices in the major markets of the world to ensure consulting assignments and search campaigns are effectively managed at both site and corporate locations 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.