Last updated 25 July, 2023

The exodus of women: understanding attrition in the mining industry

The mining industry has long been recognised as a male-dominated sector, with women comprising only a small percentage of the workforce. However, recent studies have shown that not only are women underrepresented in mining, but they are also leaving the industry at a higher rate than men. This trend has significant implications for the mining industry, as it struggles to attract and retain talent to address its challenges and achieve sustainable growth. So what are the top reasons why women are leaving, and what can be done to change the situation to attract and retain more women in mining?

The Current Situation 

According to Mckinsey, women represent only 8 to 17 percent of the global mining workforce, with even lower representation in senior leadership roles. The drop-off in female representation from entry-level to executive positions in mining is one of the most significant across all industries. This lack of gender diversity poses challenges for the industry, as it has been proven that diverse teams are more productive, engaged, and operate more safely. Companies with a critical mass of women executives are also more likely to achieve above-average profitability. Therefore, increasing female representation in mining is not only a matter of equality, but also a strategic advantage for the industry.

Reasons Women are Leaving Mining 

Several factors contribute to women leaving the mining industry. One of the main issues is the gender pay gap, which is significant in mining compared to other industries. Women are attracted to mining for its competitive remuneration, but the reality is that they face unequal pay. The lack of equal promotion opportunities is another concern, with 44% of women reporting that they do not believe they have received the same chances for advancement as their male colleagues. Women with fewer years on the job tend to value opportunities for growth and advancement more highly, but they often face a firm glass ceiling that limits their progress.

Retention is another challenge, as women are leaving mining at various stages of their careers. The type and variety of work, pay, and advancement opportunities are cited as the top reasons for leaving the industry. Women often feel that their work is no longer intellectually challenging, and that there is a sense of not fitting in and feeling sidelined, particularly in technical and operational roles. The combination of these factors discourages women from continuing their careers in mining, leading to attrition.

What Can Be Done to Change the Situation

To address the underrepresentation of women in mining and retain female talent, mining companies need to take proactive measures. Here are some strategies that can be implemented:

1) Track key metrics and set specific goals

Companies should measure and monitor the representation of women in their workforce and set clear goals for improvement. By tracking progress, companies can identify areas that need attention and measure the effectiveness of their initiatives.

2) Promote diversity in recruiting and promotions

Ensure that women are represented on recruiting and promotion boards to eliminate bias and ensure a fair selection process. Define roles that draw on a wider set of expertise to attract a diverse talent pool.

3) Address the gender pay gap

Conduct a comprehensive compensation analysis to identify and narrow the gender pay gap. If pay differentials are not justified, take steps to close the gap and ensure equal pay for equal work.

4) Create rotational programs and support reintegration 

Implement rotational programs that allow employees to gain experience across different business units, functions, or geographies. This can help retain women by providing varied and challenging work opportunities. Additionally, create programs to support the reintegration of staff after parental or academic leaves, benefiting both men and women.

The Role of Coaching in Retaining Women in Mining

One approach that can significantly contribute to retaining women in mining is coaching. Coaching can play a crucial role in supporting the advancement and development of high-potential women in the industry. By providing team or one-on-one guidance, coaching helps women navigate the challenges they may face and build the necessary skills and confidence to succeed in their careers.

Coaching can address specific issues identified in the mining industry, such as the lack of advancement opportunities and the sense of not fitting in. A skilled coach can help women overcome barriers, develop strategies for career progression, and provide support and encouragement along the way. Moreover, coaching can help create a more inclusive and supportive culture within mining companies, where women feel valued and empowered.

Promoting Women’s Growth in Mining

The underrepresentation of women in the mining industry and their higher attrition rates present significant challenges for the sector. To address this issue, mining companies must take proactive steps to attract and retain more women. This includes addressing the gender pay gap, providing equal promotion opportunities, creating inclusive work environments, and implementing coaching programs to support their advancement and development. By embracing these strategies, the mining industry can tap into a wider talent pool, enhance its productivity and safety, and position itself for long-term success.

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