Mining CEOs need to work together to increase number of women in their ranks

OTTAWA – Canadian mining company chief executives need to work together to develop strategies to increase the number of women in the industry, a new report suggests.

Clare Beckton, author of the report by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership, said they can start by increasing the number of women in the boardroom and in senior executive roles.

“We know there is a correlation between having an increased number of women on boards and in senior leadership and the attractiveness of an industry for women,” Beckton, the centre’s executive director, said Tuesday.

Beckton said the industry also needs to work on attracting women at the other end of the spectrum.

“That starts in elementary school and throughout high school to have that awareness for women of these good jobs that are available in the mining industry,” she said.

The report found that women make up about 18 per cent of the workforce in the mining industry compared with 61.5 per cent in finance, 45.2 per cent in tourism and transport and 24.6 per cent in energy.

Beckton said industries that have successfully increased the proportion of women have examined their corporate culture and policies.

She noted that increasing the proportion of women in senior roles at Canada’s big mining companies is also about improving corporate performance.

“We know that when you have a diversity of perspective you will get better and different results,” she said.

The report said the industry will need more than 75,000 new workers in less than a decade.

Xstrata Nickel chief executive Ian Pearce is a key supporter of the report and said it comes at a critical time for the industry.

“Our long-term success is based upon attracting, leveraging and retaining a diverse workforce and the real opportunity is to make gender inclusion part of the overall business conversation,” Pearce said in a statement.

“The time is upon us, and frankly overdue.”

The report found most women in mining companies work on the support side rather than in operations, where the majority of executives are chosen. They are also held back by a lack of formal work-family balance policies, lack of mobility and insufficient mentorship and networking policies.

The report suggested companies consider women for leadership positions that have transferable skills from other sectors as well as has policies and practices that support family-related responsibilities and equally make it possible for men’s family responsibilities to be supported.