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Why More Women Should Choose Mining

Long perceived as male-dominated, the mining sector is slowly changing its gender attitudes. But convincing more women to join the industry remains difficult. By Rodney Weidemann.

Mining is one of the bread-and-butter industries of the South African economy, and women have long been the bread-and-butter providers for their families. So it only seems logical to encourage them to participate more deeply in both this industry and the economy as a whole.

With August being Women’s Month, SA Mining asked several senior women in the industry why they think girls should consider mining as a career, and their best advice for those starting out.

Rosebella Osei, head of strategy for Women in Mining, points out that by considering a career in the mining sector, young women planning or starting out in the working world can contribute their skills and perspectives to an industry that is evolving and becoming more inclusive. 

“The mining industry offers opportunities for personal and professional growth, as it offers a wide range of opportunities for career growth and advancement. From entry-level positions, to specialised roles in engineering, geology, environmental science, and management, there are various paths to explore and progress in the industry,” she says. 

“Furthermore, the mining sector operates on a global scale, providing opportunities to work in different countries and experience diverse cultures. This can be particularly appealing to young women who have an interest in travel and exploring new environments.”

In addition, says Osei, the mining sector offers competitive salaries and benefits, the result of which is that pursuing a career in mining can provide them with the financial stability to support their personal and professional goals.

“Two other good reasons also stand out. The mining industry is embracing technological advancements to improve efficiency, safety, and sustainability. This presents opportunities for young women to work with cutting-edge technologies such as automation, robotics, remote sensing, and data analytics.

“Secondly, the industry has also recognised the need for greater diversity and inclusion. Most companies are actively working towards increasing the representation of women in their workforce, creating supportive work environments, and promoting equal opportunities for career advancement. These initiatives promise a more balanced and sustainable workplace in the near future,” she says. 

Alternative perspectives

Lydia Carroll, a professional quantity surveyor with 36 years of experience, and currently director for Capital Projects and Infrastructure at PwC Advisory, says it’s important to have more women in this sector, because of the fresh or different perspectives they can bring to a male-dominated industry.

“Women, in my view, are definitely more detail-oriented and like to stick to rules. We want to do everything right with no compromise. Women are also more people-oriented and bring in a softer approach to the working environment,” says Carroll. 

She adds that this is important because mining in general is driven by production and the importance of bottom-line revenue, and there are certain instances where the people factor, life/work balance, or even certain rules can easily be compromised. 

“Remember that as mothers, sisters, and daughters, family life remains very important, and thus women can add another dimension to the above-mentioned factors. At the same time, don’t be fooled, women are also strong enough to work in diverse teams in the underground, surface infrastructure, maintenance, or other mining environments.”

Keele Letsipa, group manager for Safety, Health and Corporate Facilities at Exxaro Resources, points out that she comes from a mining family and was adamant, after her family’s experiences, that she would never join the industry. While that vow did not hold, she suggests that one thing helped her achieve the position she now holds.

“For me, mentoring is absolutely critical, and my success I attribute to having three very different mentors, and I would advise young women to follow a similar path. My one mentor was a senior man in the mining sector, who was able to provide me with a male perspective.

“My second mentor was a woman who had succeeded in the industry, which provided me with an example to aspire to and advice on how to achieve this, as she had already made the journey I was on. Finally, my last mentor was actually a peer who I was able to bounce ideas off, the way one might with a big sister,” she says.

Parting advice 

Finally, we asked each for the parting words of advice they would give to those young women who had decided to pursue a career in this industry. Osei says as women, it is important to remember that the journey in the mining industry may have its unique challenges, but also offers incredible opportunities for growth, impact, and fulfilment. 

“We therefore have to be confident and stay true to ourselves. We also have to be persistent, and believe in our abilities to make a difference. We should further embrace diversity and inclusion, to advocate for ourselves and other women and also strive for a healthy work-life balance to ensure that we are building personal relationships, and pursuing interests outside of work that will promote and maintain long-term career satisfaction.” 

Carroll says whatever you choose to do as you move forward, the key is to take responsibility for your own career.

“This means learning wherever it is possible, and absorbing whatever you can during this process. Most importantly, always remember to enjoy the road you are travelling, and that small steps ultimately lead to big changes,” she says.

Letsipa says it’s imperative that women wanting to join an industry that has always been dominated by men come to the realisation that career has no gender.

“In other words, you can do whatever you set your mind to, but never apologise for being women. For us to achieve equal and active participation in the economy, it is vital that women play their part in developing this critical sector.

“However, remember to always also be proud of who you are. Working in this industry does not mean you cannot have children or raise a family, and it doesn’t mean you should ever have to apologise for looking beautiful when going to work. You can be a woman and a miner at the same time,” she says.  


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