Professional Women in the Extractive Sector
November 14, 2014
OWIT - Ottawa
Fasken Martineau Du Moulin LLP
Cassels Brock and Blackwell LLP
Business and Regulatory lawyer
2017 JD/MA Candidate
Although Canadian mining companies are present in more than 100 countries around the world, women are still largely underrepresented in the mining sector. More specifically, women only make up about 16% of the mining workforce. This gender gap creates many hurdles for women who are seeking to participate in the extraction industry.
The industry itself creates many structural barriers to a women’s success. Many of the positions require frequent travel, some to dangerous or remote regions, which may not be feasible for women with families. Consequently, the mining industry loses many women who tend to switch to jobs with more stability and structure.
Moreover, Schweitzer notes that the 16% figure can be a bit misleading because of the way in which women are represented in different areas of the extractive industry. Women tend to occupy jobs in the Human Resources and Investment Relations departments rather than being members of the Boards. According to Preston, there is often only one woman at the table. This poor gender representation makes it difficult to promote women in the extractive industry.
Notwithstanding these challenges, all three speakers agree that women can and do play a very important role in the mining sector. As an example, Clements remarks that women tend to be very skilled at consensus building and at managing sensitive issues, which is necessary when working in an industry where accidental deaths can occur. That being said, women should not feel that their gender is a disadvantage in the mining sector. In fact, Schweitzer says that being a woman can help to move forward in the industry. But, to do so, women have a responsibility to promote themselves and to promote other women.