By: Nelendhre Moodley
As the mining sector works towards meeting the legislated gender equity targets, there arises the question of whether this is just a box-ticking exercise for many companies or whether there is meaningful transformation. SA Mining caught up with fuel management company Gilbarco’s GM Rumisha Motilal to chat about her experiences in the sector.
From your experience are mining companies and suppliers making the call to meet gender equity targets as required by legislation?
My honest answer is no. Although much progress and awareness has been made in recent years, I still believe that mining organisations could be doing more to become gender-balanced. When we look at the global leadership picture, we see progress in terms of women in the C-suite. As an example, women in C-suite positions increased from 15% to 21% in 2019. Although we can celebrate the progress, we are not seeing the same progress for women of colour in the C-suite. It’s imperative that mining organisations implement policies that enforce gender equity with a strategic agenda and key considerations are made for women of colour and the inclusion of these women in male-dominated divisions. We all know the key financial indicators that outline organisations with gender-balanced boards outperform competitors on key financial indicators like return on equity, increased sales and return on investment. If mining companies want to beat competitors the answer is simple: hire more female executives.
What are some of the challenges associated with working in the mining sector?
Women are faced with challenges such as lack of inclusion, lack of mentors, lack of technical training, sexual harassment, racism, sexism, bullying and lack of leadership support. For most women in male-dominated positions they are the “first women to fulfil the roles” and they are usually set up to fail. Women “usually” work 10 times harder to get half the acknowledgment their male colleagues get. Women are reluctant to talk about the war stories because they fear victimisation. For example, at a company I worked for previously, I was requested to speak Afrikaans which was not my inherent job requirement. I was regarded as a “female experiment” on the management team. Even though the average qualification was about Grade 12 on the management team and at the time I had 12 years’ management experience and held an MBA with a proven performance track record. The point is these experiences happen to women all the time and senior officials at organisations do not address it. I chose to take my experiences, research the barriers and find coping mechanisms to help other women navigate the industry. It ended up becoming a book which will be launched in August. My recommendation is for mining companies to unite towards gender parity and not allow gender discrimination and unfair practices. I am fortunate that I joined Gilbarco AFS which has been a positive experience for me regarding inclusion and diversity as a woman in the mining sector.
What is the industry doing to attract more women to the sector?
There are certainly more networking opportunities which allow women a platform to share their successes and challenges and assist each other to progress in this tough industry. At Gilbarco I am currently on the executive team, which is a 50% gender-balanced team, and the company is a financially sound, inclusive and progressive organisation. This stems from senior leaders who drive transformation with strategic intent as opposed to meeting affirmative action numbers. Inclusion is the Gilbarco culture and not a tick-box exercise. The competitive advantage is seen in the financials, the employee engagements statistics and retention of employee statistics. The executive team is not afraid to take action and resolve unfavourable practices that do not drive inclusion. The industry needs to make gender parity a strategic intent and execute gender parity objectives accordingly.
How is your company promoting gender equity and women’s participation?
Firstly, this initiative is led by our HR director Alma Moses, who is not just a stakeholder in title. She has power and authority too. It’s imperative that women of colour are given titles and the power to execute on business objectives. In South Africa it is common practice to give women a title without any execution power – this is known as “window dressing”. Secondly having an MD (Yemi Fatunla) who is strategic and an empowering leader makes our job as women way easier. Racism and sexism agenda points are top priority, which makes a great difference. Thirdly, I work with an executive team that values female contribution and heeds each person’s contribution with counter arguments delivered with respect and the highest level of professionalism. Our priority is inclusion before diversity, which speaks volumes.
Do you think the mining industry’s move towards increased modernisation and mechanisation is encouraging more women into the sector?
I believe it is encouraging because women can now see the potential in the industry and are looking at ways that they can contribute to making the mining sector more competitive, safer and inclusive from a Fourth Industrial Revolution perspective, and more gender-balanced for the generations to follow. The industry leaders need to create a safe inclusive environment to support and grow these innovative ways of working.
What lessons can South Africa take from global mining companies’ stance on attracting women to mining?
My view is that globally we are not where we should be in the mining space. Allow me to explain some useful best practices to drive gender parity as a culture change. There should be multiple safe communication channels where women can speak up and engage about the career barriers they face. Other companies use employee engagement stats as an annual practice. The key is to drive improvement activities with regular feedback from employees. “Speak up” platforms are usually investigated by the perpetrators, which makes women reluctant to talk about the challenges they face. In order to prevent this, my advice is to institute focus groups to address unfair practices. Women need role models and exposure to technical mining practices. With support and opportunities more women will embark on progressing in the industry. I have 10 rules of engagement for women to follow which I outline in my Women@work talks. One example is Taking Centre Stage in your mining career. This means women should be more strategic and intentional about their careers, and give it thought by making real changes so that they are able to take centre stage in their careers. Being modest is really about not feeling comfortable with career compliments and achievements. An example is when someone gives you praise, you dismiss it. If one is not comfortable with projecting power, one won’t talk about one’s achievements regularly. Doing a good job and being modest does not get you recognised – you need to own your achievements if you want to be recognised. Self-promotion does not mean bragging; it is a healthy sense of confidence. Consider ways in which you feel comfortable in self-promotion. Women need to get comfortable with power. We need to show up feeling good, looking good and feeling powerful. Having a strong sense of power helps you own your space at the leadership table.
Please share a bit about Gilbarco and its stance on gender equity
I am the general manager – mining for Gilbarco Veeder-Root. I joined in July 2019. Gilbarco has been a manufacturer of fuelling equipment and technology since 1865, and our holding company is based in the United States. Gilbarco has a mining footprint in more than 50% of South African mines. What attracted me to the company was the technology and innovation. Gilbarco uses data technology to aid mines’ decision making by using an omni-channel approach to mining real-time operations management. I found the solutions and production offerings fascinating and this was aligned to next-generation thinking which always interested me. When I was interviewed I was blown away by the inclusive and engaging leadership dialogues I had with vice president Andre Dhawan, HR director Alma Moses and VP HR Andrew Nash. It is the most progressive and transformative organisation with gender parity – not just a slogan on the wall; it is a culture everyone consumes. The products fascinated me because I wanted to understand how this company takes control of mining operations through real-time data-driven insights which helped mines make critical business decisions based on a near-real-time view of operations. I wanted to be part of an innovation hub that is powered by intelligence and grit. Gilbarco lives inclusion and diversity and in my opinion I wish more mining organisations would implement best practices accordingly.
Any other information you wish to impart?
I have uncovered my experiences in my book which will be launched this Women’s Day, 9 August 2020. It is called Women@work: My Journey Into “Macho” World. It encompasses my experience working in the mining sector.