Placing gender on the mining and metals agenda

Has mining discovered its next great resource?

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The proven links between gender diversity on boards and better business performance show that having more women in your boardroom makes good business sense. With a female representation of only 9% or 35 of the 377 directors on the boards of the top 30 mining and metals (M&M) companies by market capitalization, it is clear that there is a long way to go until we reach gender parity.

The gender gap isn’t just a gender issue. It’s a business issue. Women’s advancement and leadership are central to business performance and economic prosperity. Profitability, return on investment (ROI) and innovation all increase when women are counted among senior leadership.

In the mining industry, a Women in Mining (WIM) UK report found two of the main barriers to women reaching senior positions:

  1. The small talent pool of women in the pipeline for board membership.
  2. A lack of sponsorship and role models for women in mining: About 84% of women surveyed identified the tendency of women to undervalue or under promote themselves as a barrier to progression and 60% identified a lack of sponsorship.

Action is needed

Achieving greater gender diversity can seem like a vast, insurmountable challenge. This guide was assembled to show organizations how real and tangible actions can be taken to support women to thrive in the workplace, thereby increasing prosperity for all.

“Women are a key component of the economy and an untapped resource in the mining sector. At EY, we strongly support the role of women in the organization and the sector through many programs, including the Global Women Fast Forward initiative.”

Miguel Zweig Global Mining & Metals Sector Leader, EY

Advancing women into leadership: our guiding principles

  • Lead with sponsorship, support with mentoring

    Active sponsorship provides individuals with access to development opportunities, which otherwise may not have been open to them. Mentorship is less active, but vital in encouraging and supporting an individual through the new opportunities gained through sponsorship.

    Sponsorship is an effective tool to combat the, “majority advantage” that men may benefit from in traditional male-dominated industries such as mining.

    Some mining organizations have established formal sponsorship programs to directly address this imbalance.

    Principles of sponsorship and mentoring:

    • Define sponsorship for your organization
    • Make an authentic and visible commitment
    • Understand barriers and biases toward women in your organization and identify ways to address them
    • Embed inclusive practices into critical business processes
  • Have leaders lead the program

    The initiatives that most effectively promote the progression of women are driven by senior management with the support of the organization’s human resources (HR) team. Buy-in from senior management is essential for three reasons:

    • Gain funding
    • Endorse inclusive best practices
    • Gain management’s participation in the initiative

    “An initiative is more likely to succeed if it is driven from the top as this guarantees both investment and priority.”

    Debbie Thomas Chairperson, Women in Mining (UK)
  • Encourage talent at all career stages

    Having systems to identify motivated individuals at all career stages helps to maintain the talent pool of women in your organization, as well as to identify those who may require additional support. Engaging with employees as they progress through their careers ensures that timely support is provided to them.

    This can be done by:

    • Having a system in place to identify women who show promise or need support early in their career, and continuing to engage with them throughout their career
    • Having open conversations about career and life stages with all employees so that careers consider transitions through life stages such as studying, having children, etc.
    • Developing methods to maintain connection and support through the different life stages both informally through a buddy system and more formally through sponsorship or mentorship

    “At EY, I was mentored early in my career and received sponsorship from a range of strong leaders in the organization, which was an enormous help in getting me to where I am today.”

    Tracey Waring Global IFRS Mining & Metals Leader, EY
  • Overcome the geographic disparity roadblock

    One of the challenges specific to the mining industry can be the remote and dispersed location of operations. This structural issue makes inclusive development initiatives essential as participants can maintain access to the organization’s internal network, making them feel less isolated from the larger organization and potential career development opportunities. The case studies we came across overcame the geographic barrier in two ways:

    • Trialing ideas in one location or region
    • Leveraging technology as a communications platform
  • Measure the results

    In today’s environment of doing more with less, it is vital to show measurable results.

    Once your organization has established a baseline, determine appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and track from the inception of your organization’s initiative in order to understand its impact. You can do this by:

    • Considering what you currently measure and how diversity and inclusion (D&I) KPIs can link to your performance measures, leadership metrics and outcomes (i.e., individual as well as organizational)
    • Engaging with stakeholders to develop KPIs that are meaningful for the business
    • Developing leader behavior frameworks that include D&I-demonstrated behaviors

    Measure the right things and measure them often

    • It gives a clear ROI which is important to the organization’s leadership and the investment decision-makers.
    • It helps your organization to be nimble and make adjustments by gauging what does and doesn’t work.
    • It increases not only the accountability for the initiative but also the advancement of women more generally.
    • Success stories throughout the organization encourages more people to volunteer as sponsors or mentors, or to seek sponsorship and mentorship opportunities.
  • Empower individuals to help themselves

    High-performing individuals will take the initiative to develop their own careers if given the appropriate tools, opportunities and encouragement.

    Organizations can facilitate the empowerment of individuals by:

    • Providing them with mentoring tools to set up their own mentoring relationships with a formal or informal matching system
    • Providing access to role models and sector groups. This can be done both within the organization and externally by partnering with the relevant associations
    • Illuminating the path to leadership. Providing direction on career development and progression can further boost retention levels, especially as women progress into middle management
  • Keep it low cost

    Many of the case studies included in this report were implemented at a relatively low cost. They are predominately run internally by the HR team and program participants, although in a few cases an external vendor was used as a partner.

    • Consider combining individual mentoring with existing HR-driven group development sessions, which have the added bonus of helping to build individuals’ networks and support groups.
    • If your organization has limited HR resources, there are several not-for-profit mining organizations around the world that run mentoring schemes for no or little cost. The added benefit of participating in these schemes is that participants gain access to different perspectives and to a network outside of their own organization.

The way forward

Our guide has featured case studies from mining companies which have championed successful coaching, mentoring and sponsoring of women in mining. All of these examples are easily replicable in mining organizations of any size as they do not require large capital outlays or a large team to be effective. Even the smallest companies can take advantage of schemes offered by mining-related organizations.

The key to encouraging women’s advancement is to be realistic and selective about where to invest; you should focus on the initiatives that resonate with your organization.


EY - Placing gender on the mining and metals agenda

Download the full report as a PDF


EY - Placing gender on the mining and metals agenda

How to elevate women to leadership positions in mining and metals

Inspiring women

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Deshnee Naidoo, CEO Zinc International and CMT at Vedanta Resources

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