Diversity and Inclusion

The Modern Mining Workforce
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Diversity and inclusion isn’t about meeting headcounts, but fostering a workplace where all genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations are not only employed but valued in roles from entry-level jobs to senior positions. And the results can’t be ignored.

Unlike the dreaded tokenism – which sees minorities, women, and disabled persons put into high-profile roles to create the impression a business or organization is on board with equality – diversity and inclusion (D&I) is about representation, respecting unique identities and perspectives, and support.

For employees, diversity and inclusion help promote a healthy and creative work environment, one where staff are comfortable sharing ideas from their own perspectives. Workplaces representing persons from different backgrounds result in more contented staff, higher degrees of teamwork – where one person learns from another – and greater productivity.

For businesses themselves, this translates into a broader talent pool, the ability to reach more customers, and increased revenue. A genuine approach to D&I is a win-win for everyone.

The need for greater diversity and inclusion – and the links showing higher employee satisfaction and boosted profits – is not lost on businesses.

In 2015, U.S.-based management consultants McKinsey & Company issued an in-depth report on the subject, Why diversity matters. Three years later, the firm released the follow-up workplace study Delivering through diversity, which expanded on the earlier report, “drawing on an enlarged data set of over 1,000 companies covering 12 countries, measuring not only profitability (in terms of earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT) but also longer-term value creation (or economic profit), exploring diversity at different levels of the organization, considering a broader understanding of diversity (beyond gender and ethnicity), and providing insight into best practices.”

Takeaways from the second report showed that, despite a link between gender and ethnic diversity and profitability, women and minority groups remain under-represented in many businesses. Equally revealing was the finding that executive teams with gender diversity are linked to greater profitability and value creation.

In the United States, recent diversity guidelines were established by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees and enforces federal laws making discriminating against someone on grounds of race, sex/sexual orientation, religion, colour, national origin, disability, genetic information, or age.

Some workforces, such as healthcare, education, and retail have higher rates of diversity and inclusion; others, such as big technology companies, are lagging far behind in hiring and retaining people of colour

One sector focusing strongly on diversity and inclusion is mining. Organizations including the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) have issued recent reports including Women in Mining: Global Perspective Cases and Best Practices from Australia and South Africa, which supports gender equality in mining. The Future of Mining Diversity from American-British law firm Hogan Lovells in partnership with Africa Legal is another valuable resource.

These reports and others such as Promoting Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Oil, Gas and Mining Extractive Industries, A Women’s Human Rights Report, from Minneapolis-based The Advocates for Human Rights, reveal the need for increased D&I in the mining world, and point out that although improvements are being made, there is still a way to go.

Globally, the number of women in mining lags far behind that of men, including females in senior roles, and there is a substantial gender-based pay gap.

In Canada, mining companies and various organizations are striving to further D&I initiatives. Women in Mining Canada (WIMC) is a national not-for-profit group focused on its mission, “Educate Elevate Empower,” and on advancing the role of women in mining and minerals exploration.

Others, including the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) – which serves as the voice of the nation’s mining industry – agree more needs to be done to advance D&I in the country.

Last year, MAC and its member joined forces over six months “to identify and commit to several tangible objectives focused on ensuring discrimination, racism and sexism have no part in the Canada’s mining sector,” according to MAC. This resulted in the issuing of a formal statement, Canadian Mining: Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Along with prioritizing D&I and condemning discrimination, hatred and inequality, objectives includes strengthening equity, inclusion and diversity, and greater representation for Indigenous persons, members of the LGBTQ2s+ community, racialized persons, newcomers, youth, women, and those with disabilities.

The statement also notes, “Together, we aim for a Canadian mining workforce that reflects the diversity of Canada and the communities where we operate and a culture of belonging and inclusion; where everyone is respected, valued and empowered to excel within the mining industry.”

Known worldwide for its annual March convention, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) is also leading the way with Gender Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide for Explorers. Providing “e3Plus: A Framework for Responsible Exploration,” the 50-page document was developed by PDAC to assist with D&I strategies among junior mining and exploration companies in both the workplace and the communities in which they operate.

“There is often an assumption that improving gender diversity and inclusion is a resource-intensive pursuit,” says PDAC Executive Director Lisa McDonald in a media release. “This guidance document challenges that assumption and demonstrates how small actions can have a tremendous impact on diversity and inclusion.”

Although Canada mining industry is one of the world’s biggest producers of more than 60 metals and minerals and directly and indirectly employs about 630,000, women comprise just 17 percent of sector workers – yet they comprise almost half of Canada’s national workforce.

By forming a Diversity & Inclusion Working Group made-up of 30 industry leaders from over two dozen organizations, PDAC is helping to improve gender diversity in Canada.

Covering topics including gender imbalance in the mineral industry, how to attract and retain talent, avoiding company-community conflict, addressing barriers and more, PDAC’s Gender Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide for Explorers serves as an ideal tool for companies implementing D&I strategies, and cultivating more diverse environments both internally and externally.

For mining and minerals companies across Canada, encouraging and implementing diversity and inclusion will bring positive changes to an industry traditionally led by men. Presenting a unique opportunity, greater representation is essential to the growth of the sector, today and into the future.

While larger mining companies such as Barrick Gold and BHP are making efforts to break barriers – with BHP welcoming three more women to its executive leadership team last year – there is much that junior mine businesses can do to encourage women, Indigenous persons, and many others not only to join the ranks, but aspire to go higher.

In 2019, the study Board gender diversity and environmental performance: An industries perspective, examined over 850 firms on the S&P 1500 Composite Index, which represent some 90 percent of America’s stock market capitalization.

Arguing that increased D&I brings a broader knowledge and experience base to boards and improved decision-making, the study concluded “gender diversity is positively associated with firms’ environmental performance scores primarily in the more environmentally impacting industries.

“Therefore, our research provides valuable direction for those firms working to improve both their boards’ gender diversity and their environmental performance. Our findings also offer insight into the mixed results of previous studies.”

For the mining and minerals sector to thrive, greater inclusion and diversity is not only the right thing to do, but the benefits will be realized long into the future.



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