Women in mining: overcoming the challenge of occupational culture at the mines
This research report explores the actions taken by mining companies, with specific focus on Kumba Iron Ore, to overcome the challenges in creating an organisational culture that accommodates women in core positions in the mines. Although more and more women are employed by mining companies worldwide, progress is hampered by the barriers in this historically male-dominated environment, which need to be overcome. South African legislation requires mining companies to meet women-in-mining targets as set out by the mining charter, forcing the mining industry to revisit opportunities for female employees. It necessitates innovative ideas to overcome challenges and to implement strategies to make women in mining work. The research investigates specifically how the mining environment is managing the transformation to overcome the historic views, physical challenges and emotional challenges of women. It discloses the willingness and commitment of mining companies to accommodate women in the workplace to eliminate discrimination and to benefit from the employment of diverse gender groups. Implemented coping strategies lead to changes in working conditions, dealing with and preventing sexual harassment, addressing physical and emotional barriers of women and other challenges to make women in mining work. However, initiatives taken do not necessarily produce the required results due to a lack of follow-up. This report reveals efforts by Kumba Iron Ore to promote mining as an employment of choice and to make mining more attractive to women. It includes the way in which efforts in attracting qualified women supports closing the gap between vacant positions and employment of women in this predominantly male environment. The research report discloses that more efforts are required to make women in mining a reality and that it requires commitment throughout the organisation with the involvement of all stakeholders to overcome these challenges. It reveals the improvement of safety in the mining environment through a specific focus (though a lack of drive still exists), ownership and stakeholder involvement to make women in mining work. A total of 22 men and women in the Kumba Iron Ore broader management team (middle and senior managers from the Mining, Plant, Safety, Human Resources and Supply Chain departments) situated at the production sites in the Northern Cape (Sishen and Kolomela), Limpopo (Thabazimbi) and the head office in Pretoria were interviewed to gather data from their direct experiences on overcoming the challenges of the organisational culture to make the mining environment more attractive and accessible for women. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to collect the information. The data was analysed using a qualitative method and this research report theory emerges from the data obtained from the questionnaires. Proposed future research topics were made.