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Is Gender Equality a Holy Grail solution to Mining’s Integration into Mainstream Social Acceptance?

Women make up about 13% of the Canadian mining industry and mining rank near the bottom of industries when considering leadership roles. Yet studies show that there are huge benefits in having women in senior leadership positions.

According to a PwC report there is “a striking correlation between return on assets and the number of women on a board.” A McKinsey & Company report suggests that “women tend to have a knack for team building; they are particularly good at defining responsibilities clearly, and mentoring and coaching employees. Mervyn Davies, an International Banker suggests that in terms of business results, the more diverse the thinking on a team, the better the results. A UN report has made postures to the potential of gender equality in mining to be able to drive the industry to higher profitability.

The 11th international Gender Summit held in Montreal from November 6-8 aimed to enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on gender issues in science, industry and government. The conference noted that the mining industry has one of the most severe gender gaps. The report also found that profit margins are higher for mining companies with women on their boards.

A notable area of deficient progress is senior levels of management where the number of women lags behind other TSX listed companies as reported in CIM Magazines coverage of a new Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP report The report also identifies a root problem that the pool of available resources is small.

Are women gaining a more important role in mining, and what is holding back a more noticeable evolution to gender equality? The strategy -includes increasing the number of women entering the science and engineering fields however that’s too late. The solution starts at an earlier time, when children are developing interests and skills. There is a time honored perception that girls and boys channel into traditional roles. Girls should be encouraged to look at science and specifically mining a rewarding career. Today’s evolving and unalterable shift to sustainability and social responsibility themes offers a significant opening for women to choose mining as a career .

The mining industry needs to encouraging primary and secondary school aged children, of all genders, to avoid the perception that there are gender-specific roles. Mining Matters,  is doing exactly this. It’s “a charitable organization dedicated to bringing knowledge and awareness about Canada’s geology and mineral resources to students, educators and the public.” The organization and its mandate have had an important part to play in Canada’s present and future role a world leader in sustainability and social responsibility solutions.

The Ostler report also indicated that women were driven at least as passionately as men towards challenging careers however their selection had to align with their “personal values”. As mining develops its messaging and programs towards mining sustainability and social responsibility themes, there is a positive expectation that women will pick up this messaging earlier in their career plans.

There is a significant opening for women to take charge of the future position of mining in society by developing culture, communication, collaboration and governance practise. The Canadian mining industry has an opportunity to develop a generation of gender equal, mining professionals with sustainability and social responsibility as the message to industry. Shared values such as gender equality have the potential to drive solutions to some of mining’s major corporate issues.