While the mining industry is making great strides in achieving greater gender equality in terms of women at the middle and senior management level, the real impact of achieving gender inclusivity lies at grassroots level. By Ricardo Ribeiro, MD of Rosond and Advisory Board Member of WiMBIZ, SA.
At board level, women representation may reach as high as 50%, but at the lower employment levels in the mining industry there is still a lot of work to be done. At Rosond, we have been very passionate about making a difference at this level and our efforts are starting to reap real rewards.
The issue is what constitutes gender equality at a grassroots level in the mining industry? What are the specific hurdles that have to be overcome at such a basic level? And how do we achieve this within the framework of the existing Mine Health and Safety Act legislation and regulations? How do you transfer knowledge and skills to allow women to become integral members of the mining workforce? Answering these key questions is what will drive the achievement of real as opposed to token gender equality.
Achieving gender equality in the industry is challenging. Our experience on the ground has shown us that the focus should not only be on increasing the number of women in skilled positions, but also on how to support these women through the intelligent design of programmes that enable them to grow and achieve greater success at work.
At Rosond we are proud of the work we do in upskilling women and creating opportunities for them to be successful in roles traditionally performed by men. Apart from creating greater access to these positions and making significant progress in increasing the number of women working at operational level, we believe that progress will be optimised through driving Mine Health and Safety Act policy change by taking aspects such as technology and automation into consideration.
In our view, this requires even greater upskilling and a sensitivity to the particular socioeconomic and family issues women face on a daily basis. Through adopting a sensitive and appreciative view of the reality women are confronted with, Rosond has been able to create a more inclusive work environment. A lot of these women were sitting at home with no job prospects. Developing them further, in conjunction with family planning and financial planning, is key to their career success as well.
As part of Rosond’s commitment to addressing these gaps, we are establishing an inaugural women’s forum at one of our drill sites in the Northern Cape to provide a platform to address ancillary issues such as family planning and financial literacy. There is a lot of responsibility involved in promoting gender equality in the mining industry, especially as we afford women the opportunity to be financially independent and to have viable careers.
The women’s forum will consolidate all of our learnings on-site in terms of gender diversity and inclusivity, allowing us to continue to offer a sustainable and empowering career path for women in mining. We invest a lot of time and resources in training women to become proficient in the drilling industry. In this regard, we have embarked on a gender inclusivity programme that includes workshops on gender sensitivity.
Apart from the female drill rig crews themselves, another way for us to promote gender diversity and inclusivity in the mining value chain is to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are established and driven by women. Of course, we have to balance this requirement against our own impetus to maintain market share.
One means to achieve this is to empower such SMEs by providing them with the equipment and services they require so that they essentially become our accredited partners. Rosond is making significant progress in this area as part of our partnership with WiMBIZ, SA.
This is an organisation established to create a platform for women entrepreneurs, businesswomen and professional women to speak in one voice and access procurement opportunities and equity transactions in the mining sector.
We are adding great value to WiMBIZ, SA through our knowledge of the industry, networks and valuable strategic input. In addition, we recently concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with two WiMBIZ, SA members as part of its enterprise development initiatives in exploration drilling.
Not only does it allow these smaller, women-led players to tender for bigger projects, but it also gives the mining houses themselves the confidence that there is a major player such as us in the background driving the process.
Transformation does not happen overnight. Therefore, we will continue to be creative and find ways to support our women employees in ways that make a real difference to their lives
Ricardo Ribeiro was appointed to the board of WiMBIZ, SA in July 2022.