Women in the spotlight
From left to right: Line Lagacé, Renée Garon, Andrea Amortegui, Joëlle Boudigou, Dominique Dionne, Jocelyne Lamothe, Nathalie Germain, Josée Méthot, Annie Dutil and Lucie Ste-Croix.
A whole section of the Québec Mines 2012 program focused on women in the mining industry. The tone had already been set at the beginning of the year, when a woman, Dominique Dionne, Vice-President at Xstrata Nickel and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Québec Mining Association, was asked to serve as honorary chair of the conference, a role she filled with distinction.
Activities surrounding the role of women in the mining industry began with a lunch conference featuring ten dedicated women. They discussed their career paths and experiences, and their perception of the changing role of women in the mining industry. At the end of the day, Dominique Dionne gave a very well-received presentation on the importance of diversity in mining companies. "I am particularly pleased that we have had the opportunity to talk about women in our industry, about their role, contribution and potential. There is a lot we can do to improve inclusion and diversity in our companies and I think it starts with gender diversity," she said.
A special presentation organized by Women in Mining Canada was also held in the form of a plenary session focusing on women in the industry and the challenges and opportunities they face. Measures to be implemented to ensure that women are better represented in the various spheres of the mining industry were also discussed.
Many industries have long been dominated by men, and mining is no exception. In fact, a study entitled The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources highlights that women are still under-represented, particularly in senior management and boards of directors of mining companies. In fact, according to the 2012 Annual Report Card of the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), Canada’s mining industry has the most board seats (809 of 3,992 in the 500 largest organizations) but only 8% are held by women, while the national average is 14%. But why are women under-represented? According to the first study mentioned, there are several reasons. They include workplace culture, which exerts considerable pressure on women, who feel that they have to prove themselves by working harder than men. In addition, since most women working for mining companies work on the support side of the organization, they often have difficulty rising to senior management positions, which tend to be offered to employees on the operational side.
The lack of formal policies to facilitate work-life balance also contributes to the persistence of a male-dominated workplace culture. Women occupying senior positions are required to travel frequently for work, regardless of their family responsibilities, and this requirement discourages many of them. Work-life balance is a major challenge for women in the industry, as some of the participants pointed out, having juggled their careers and family lives.
Finally, the fact that mining companies do not have enough formal mentoring and networking policies and programs to facilitate the professional advancement of women within their organization is another of the main reasons that women are under-represented in senior management positions and on boards of directors.
In general, the ideas expressed by women at Québec Mines 2012 are similar to those set out in the study conducted by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership in November 2012. Women present at the various activities considered that change had to be initiated by the mining industry itself. In fact, as mentioned in the study, mining companies need to develop and implement multifaceted strategies that address cultural change, as well as specific initiatives that are incorporated into their operational priorities. They should also initiate policies and practices that support family-related responsibilities for both their male and female employees.
The industry should build partnerships with governments, schools and academia to attract women and support their participation in the trades. Simple changes should also be made when women start working at a mine, such as adjustments to equipment, for example.
Once all these solutions have been implemented, it is safe to say that women will be more attracted to mining trades and occupations, and contribute their full potential to the industry.
Québec Mines 2012
The special focus on women at Québec Mining 2012 allowed attendees to discover strong women who are proud of their careers—and who are also very confident that others will follow in their footsteps and ensure that women have a place in the mining industry.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of the data mentioned in this article is from the study entitled The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources, conducted in November 2012 by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership.