Women in industry
Maria Alejandra Delgado, General Manager,
Rio Tinto Peru
Inspiring women from mining and metals
Focused on the long term, mining exec aims to create awareness of gender diversity.
Maria Alejandra grew up with mining in her blood as her father’s stories of mining stirred her imagination. She was very close to her father who gave her the “bug” early on, and she was keen to follow in his footsteps. Maria Alejandra’s passion for the sector is also linked to the opportunities it offers to her country, Peru. She believes that mining will help Peru step up on the world stage from an economic and investment perspective.
Working with a company with a long-term vision
Initially Maria Alejandra worked for law firms advising mining companies and their investors, before moving to Peruvian miner Compañía Minera Milpo. Maria Alejandra recalls that when she was three month pregnant, she was asked to interview for a position at Rio Tinto. Initially she wasn’t sure how to tackle the topic but decided to be honest and told them that was pregnant during the interview. “It felt really good to be honest and open,” and she left the decision about how to proceed to Rio Tinto’s discretion. Obviously Maria Alejandra impressed the company and after a second interview, she was sent a letter of offer. Apart from the joy of a great job opportunity, the offer sent a very clear message to Maria Alejandra that Rio Tinto took a long-term perspective, which was important to her. They had a vision beyond the 5 or 6 months during which she was on maternity leave, to the 10 years she has been working for the company.
The importance of diversity
When Maria Alejandra first thought about the goal of advancing women in the sector, she wasn’t aware of a bias, because it wasn’t visible or obvious. Since then, she has become more mindful of gender differences and acts as a positive influence for change at Rio Tinto. As Maria Alejandra reflects, “I want my daughter to have all doors open to her.”
Maria Alejandra values diversity beyond gender, noting that her cultural diversity in an Anglo-Saxon company has contributed to her decision-making being effective and integrated.
Helping women advance
For the mining industry to attract, retain and grow participation by women in all positions, especially in top management, Maria Alejandra says companies need to be flexible. They need to reconsider what have been regarded as fixed or deep-rooted customs and processes, and question them.
She reflects that given the often restricting conditions in the industry, there are certain roles that will be more difficult for a woman. For example, being a geologist means working in remote locations. But if a woman wants to perform a role, she should be given the opportunity.
It is unsurprising that Maria Alejandra believes the sector is really behind on the matter of gender equality, and it is playing “catch up.” Rules and quotas will help increase the number of woman in the sector, but she is certain that over time, these will no longer be required. Once awareness is created, it will become more part of the culture; but right now, she thinks, they are necessary.
Career advice from Maria Alejandra
- Women should dare and persist. If you have the dream of working in mining, you should follow it. Do not focus on the obstacles, focus on the dream.
- Do not give up, stay focused and continue with the same passion with which you started. In the end, your efforts will bear fruit; so persist, persist, persist!
- Always be open to, and aware of, the opportunities that may arise. Don’t be afraid to take them! Work with the same passion you had when you were younger and just starting your career.
The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of the global EY organization or its member firms. Moreover, they should be seen in the context of the time they were made.
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