Many organizations that launch diversity and inclusion initiatives cite research showing that companies with more diverse teams outperform those with a more homogeneous workforce. According to some of these reports, the inclusion of voices from different geographic, gender, economic, and cultural groups not only creates opportunities for individuals to grow within the company, but also helps the organization to harness the talent and potential for itself, leading to greater profitability and value creation. Therefore, looking at it in simple terms, there is value in embracing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workforce.
The Southern African mining sector, just like the global mining industry, still faces huge challenges when it comes to gender inclusivity and the creation of a supportive environment for career advancement of not only women but also other workers from diverse backgrounds such as, for example, LGBTQI. Issues such as gender disparity, safe spaces in the workplace, protective equipment, sanitation facilities, pregnancy and child care are but a few challenges that continue to plague the sector. There is thus a great need for strategies for advancing womens’ representation and encouraging decisions that are in the best interests of a diverse workforce in the mining industry.
In most cases, diversity and inclusion are often treated as a single initiative owned exclusively by the human resources section of each organization. However, for real change to happen, leaders of the mining industry need to not only buy into these initiatives, but also embrace the value of belonging. It is only when this happens that we will witness a significant change in the mining landscape. The industry must also realize that sticking to quotas does not mean inclusion; it’s only compliance and not commitment. The industry needs to go beyond that. Identifying individuals, creating safe spaces for them, providing support for them to grow into their roles, and creating conditions that promote inclusion on a daily basis will ensure that such initiatives are not once-off, but are long term, which would be of more benefit to mining companies.
The SAIMM as a professional organization that represents the needs and interest of mining professionals in southern Africa also has a role to play in driving such an agenda. And as such, the Diversity and Inclusion in the Minerals Industry (DIMI) Committee was initiated to raise awareness on these issues and to create platforms for discussion that can lead to the development of strategies for advancing and encouraging decisions that are in the best interest of a diverse workforce. The Committee is made up of dynamic male and female, emerging and experienced professionals from both industry and academia, who are all passionate about seeing positive changes in the minerals sector.
The Committee has held a number of talks at local universities to raise awareness among students and sensitize them particularly to issues related to gender inclusivity and safe spaces within the mining industry. The Committee has also hosted a workshop focusing on challenges and strategies for mentoring and retaining women in the mining industry. A webinar series given by highly notable speakers from within and outside the industry is scheduled for the month of August 2020, to celebrate Women’s Month. The series will cover talks on a weekly basis touching on diverse issues such as gender inclusivity in the workplace, creating a positive environment for diversity, conquering inner fears, developing a growth mind-set, and workplace strategies for mental health. The Committee is also planning to host the first-ever SAIMM conference on diversity and inclusion in the mining industry in August 2021.
The Committee has also been looking at establishing collaborations with partners who are keen to enhance the diversity landscape and cause in the mining industry. Informal collaborative partnerships have been established with the Minerals Council South Africa and Women in Mining South Africa (WIMSA). It is expected that all these strategies and activities will go a long way in catalysing a positive change in the mining industry.