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Considering women represent 50% of the world’s population, it should be equally reflected in the workforce, especially in traditionally male dominated industries like mining, writes Laura Cornish.

The number of women in South Africa’s mining sector is on the rise, and they are proving that their capabilities, at the coal face and in the boardroom, are a value-add to the sector. While the general mining industry has shown a positive inclination towards increasing its female head counts, certain companies are leading the way forward and leading by example.

Although she will soon step down from her position as CEO for global mining firm Anglo American, Cynthia Carroll has been and will continue to be an ambassador for promoting women inthe mining profession. As the only major mining company run by a female chief executive in the past decade, Carroll has used her position to focus on female employment in the company and is a passionate advocate of gender equality.

“There are more women in mining now than ever before, especially those who have and are rising within their respective organisations as a result of their talents and capabilities. Women are making influential decisions and are playing more significant roles at management level in Anglo American,” says Carroll.

In addition to investing in its own company, Anglo American is furthermore the primary endorser of the Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA), a non-profit organisation established in 2010 that provides a forum to facilitate growth and participation of women in the mining industry of South Africa. The group provides opportunities for women already working in the industry to network and seek personal mentoring. Presently, there are more than 400 members from South Africa, and the group is anticipated to grow substantially beyond this.

“I understand the value and support they offer our local mining communities and I am confident that they will continue to fulfil the purpose I created at Anglo American when I took up the position of chief executive – creating conditions and a framework for women in the sector to thrive,” Carroll states.

According to Carroll, Anglo American has the largest percentage of women in its organisation across the globe (in the mining sector). “About 15% of our total workforce comprises of the female gender,” she says. “The inroads we have already made are great but the company is committed to achieving more. The target is to increase the percentage of women in the organisation to 21% by the end of 2014, with 40% in management positions.”

While such aspirations could be considered questionable, Anglo American has already proved it knows how to deliver on its goals and aspirations. In the last eight years, it has already more than doubled the number of women management positions, and its South African business arms are contributing equally. About 25% of all managers in South Africa within the Anglo stable are women.

“Our platinum business has worked particularly hard to overcome historical mining legacies. All operation change houses, PPE, etc. now accommodate women’s needs. Over the last six years, the number of women in the business has increased from about 400 to 4 000. In 2011, it was recognised as the top gender empowered company in the resources industry in South Africa.”

The group’s thermal coal business is another leading by example – 18% of the workforce is women and 22% hold senior management positions.

“From our boardroom to the mine face, we want women to have access to the many rewarding career opportunities provided by our industry. We don’t offer women the chance to be equal. We offer them the opportunity to be exceptional.”

Sidebar: WiMSA’s future mentorship programme plans

Following on the success of WiMSA’s mentorship programmes, the organisations plans to establish a ‘Student Chapter’, which will focus on female geoscience students in different tertiary institutions. To this end, WiMSA plans to facilitate internship and bursaries through its website by enticing companies to advertise available bursaries on itand enabling students to apply for the bursary/internship through the site.

The Student Chapter will extend to female pupils in high school with natural sciences subjects who show an affinity to pursuing a career in geosciences. In the scholar mentorship programme, only a number of schools have to be chosen in the Gauteng area initially to participate in the programme. This will be done by contacting the education department for a list of schools and contact numbers, contacting the schools and carrying out site visits and then choosing the most appropriate schools.

Sidebar: Companies sponsoring WiMSA in 2013

  • Anglo American (primary sponsor)
  • Deloitte
  • Xstrata
  • The Mineral Corporation
  • Johnson’s Clothing
  • Rio Tinto
  • MTS
  • Chamber of Mines
  • Royal Bafokeng
  • CSIR
  • National Empowerment Fund

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