Almost 20% of senior executives in the top JSE-listed mining companies are women and 17% of board posts are held by women. The Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA) report states: “This is better than the global average of 11.1%”. The industry as a whole in South Africa is represented by 14% women [at board level] and fewer female CEOs. The South African Mining industry relative to the rest of the world is a success story, as globally 21% of graduates hired are women.”
The WiMSA report reinforces a continued improvement in the perceptions of women about their role in the mining industry and the challenges they may experience in working and progressing in the industry. “Instead of having to figure out ways to compensate for their gender, women feel they receive more support and have more opportunities because of their gender,” says Noleen Pauls Chairperson of WiMSA.
“Companies around the globe, not only in mining but in all industries, are internalising the multiple research reports that clearly demonstrate that a more diversified workforce results in a more successful and profitable business,” adds Ms Pauls.
While the report noted movement in the right direction, it simultaneously noted deficiencies. “South Africa has a large pool of women available to enter the industry, a strong pipeline in senior management, the better performing organisations having good representation on boards, fewer women in the industry as a whole, yet it’s going to take us a while to reach the 30% target that is aimed for globally.”
There may be an argument that at least at a senior level women are better suited to leadership positions in this traditionally most masculine of all industries: at an age when men decide to slow down, women display more resilience and energy in furthering their careers.
“Research… demonstrated interesting age correlations, where women in their early 40’s continued to be focused on self-development while men tended not to further develop their studies. Women often hold more qualifications than men in similar roles.” This competence tended to eliminate “any effects of male dominated bias on their careers,” Andrew Lane, Africa Energy and Resources Leader for Deloitte.
“Other drivers of leadership success include the fact that women were seen as more collaborative, resilient, displayed a strong work ethic and often harnessed lots of energy and empathy, allowing them to better understand their colleagues and build relationships based on trust and respect. This sentiment was shared by the WiMSA survey respondents who commented that ‘Women listen better and work harder at communicating accurately,” adds Lane.
However, not all comes up roses for women, according to the report. In an argument against the notion that a more diversified workforce results in a more successful and profitable business, the report found that almost half of the survey respondents believe that women compromise the cohesiveness of a team. That’s an unexpected percentage given the majority of the respondents were themselves women. What’s particularly surprising is that the worst rating in this regard comes from the most senior echelon of ‘top management’.
However, there is no problem among the more technical ranks such as Geology and Mining Engineering, which do not view women as affecting team cohesion. Arguing in favour of more cohesion at a technical rather than management level, i one of the key findings from the survey is that participants continue to view competence and high levels of performance as driving the growth of Women in Mining careers.
Fifty-five percent of the respondent’s view both their employers and governments as not doing enough to promote the careers of women. Suggestions for improvement by organisations included making leadership assignments available to women, increasing the number of mentors available, giving bursaries, training, educating men, measuring the implementation of employment equity plans and aiming to do more than the minimum.
Mining houses have revealed themselves as becoming more flexible in one of the most requested needs of female employees: flexible working hours that enable them to balance home and work life. The report stated that 47% of respondents want more flexible working arrangements “but only 36% have actually asked for it”, and 62% of those that had requested such arrangements had it granted by their employer.
“This clearly demonstrates that companies are being progressive in supporting women and the need for flexible working arrangements. Women need to learn to be more assertive and confident in asking for this support,” says Ms Pauls