Mining a ‘laggard among laggards’ on female representation – report

Reference image by Philip Mostert, Glecore. (Taken from WIM100).

Amongst low labour force participation, the drop-off from entry-level to executive positions for females in mining is among the most dramatic across all industries, a new study by McKinsey & Company has found.

Women represent an estimated 8 to 17% of the global mining workforce. Breaking down the sector in terms of senior leadership roles, McKinsey found mining was a laggard among laggards: female representation within mining company C-suites sits at 13%. Among S&P 500 companies, there are only 30 female CEOs — not one of them from mining.

Notwithstanding the fundamental values of equality and equity, study after study has demonstrated the benefits of diversity on financial and operating performance.

In one data set, diverse teams were reported to be more productive (11% higher adherence to production schedule) and to have safer practices (67% lower total recordable injury frequency).

Mining fingered as the ‘laggard among laggards’ when it comes to female representation – report

Strength in diversity

According to McKinsey, diversity promotes creativity and strategic resilience. Mining companies will need both to successfully meet the broadening challenges facing the industry today, from digital and analytics disruption to sustainability and decarbonization.

The imperative to attract and harness the capabilities of a broad and diverse labour pool is clear and should encourage mining companies to recruit more women and invest in their success. To add to the value proposition, investors tend to favour companies that help them achieve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, encompassing diversity within the company and in the broader community.

McKinsey launched a global survey that received more than 1,000 responses from employees in the mining sector in 52 countries and every continent to understand the trend better. 

The survey looked at female representation in mining across the three dimensions critical to women’s progression in the industry: initial recruitment, medium-term retention, and the promotion of women through the organization.

Mining fingered as the ‘laggard among laggards’ when it comes to female representation – report

For the most part, women are attracted to the mining sector by the type and variety of work it offers, the opportunities for professional growth and advancement, and the competitive remuneration.

From a tenure perspective, women with less tenure (fewer than five years’ experience) rank growth opportunities higher than do more tenured women, McKinsey reports.

While not leaders of the pack, the mining sector (along with utilities and energy) does seem to attract women, with about 40% of entry-level roles being filled by women. So, where does mining lose them?

The reported top reasons for leaving the industry are feeling that work is no longer intellectually challenging and perceiving that there are fewer advancement opportunities than there are for their male colleagues.

Not part of the ‘club’

Interviews with leading women in mining highlight that women experience being sidelined, particularly in technical roles. There is a sense that opportunities for operational experience and frontline mentorship are created proactively for men. At the same time, women are expected to have acquired frontline experience “elsewhere” to qualify for advanced technical and leadership roles.

Company culture and lack of diversity beyond the entry-level also seem to be factors pushing women out of mining.

The women McKinsey surveyed commonly referred to as “not being a member of the boys’ club,” which lowered their motivation and sense of belonging. Women can find it twice as hard as men (44% versus 23%) to adapt to the culture of the mining industry.

The survey indicates that women are most likely to be uncertain about leaving or planning to leave the industry before reaching middle management.

Mining fingered as the ‘laggard among laggards’ when it comes to female representation – report

McKinsey suggests early support in women’s careers can be critical to increasing diversity within the sector.

Mining companies are failing to promote women, which is evident from the sparse female representation within senior management roles. More than 44% of female respondents felt they had not received equal promotion opportunities; 20% of women across tenures said they were not given the right growth opportunities.

Mining companies should attempt to address all three dimensions: attraction, retention, and promotion to make meaningful progress, McKinsey asserts.