Today marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world. But it’s also a day to reflect on the fact that we are far from achieving gender equality. The roots of International Women’s Day reach back more than a century when a ‘special Women’s Day’ to be organised annually was proposed at the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference. And whilst a lot has been improved and achieved over the last century there is much more to be done and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issues around gender inequality even more to forefront.
According to McKinsey, women are more vulnerable to COVID-19 related economic effects because of existing gender inequalities, with women’s jobs 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses as of May 2020.1
In addition, last year, the UK collected the most comprehensive data in any country in regards to gender pay gap which revealed that in the UK almost 90 percent of women still work for companies that pay them less than their male colleagues.2
When I encounter stats like these I always wonder if the next generation of women entering the workforce will still have to fight this battle. But I am encouraged that whilst much more needs to be done there is increasing acknowledgement that change is necessary and real efforts are needed to achieve this change.
So, what is the gold mining sector doing?
For much of its long history, mining has been considered ‘man’s work’ by cultures all over the world. The under-representation of women in gold mining from the ore face to the boardroom has been identified as a major issue.
As such, when the Board of the WGC, the CEOs of the world’s leading gold mining companies, came together to create the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), they acknowledged that more had to be done on gender equality and the role of women in mining.
The RGMPs include two principles designed to address these issues. The first, Principle 6.6: Women and Mining, has two components, the first of which requires companies to identify and resolve any barriers to the advancement and fair treatment of women in the workplace. The second component of the Principle creates a clear expectation that companies should contribute to the socio-economic empowerment of women in the local communities around their operations not only as employers, but also through the supply chain, training, and community investment programmes.
The second, Principle 7.2: Understanding Communities, states that companies, when engaging with local communities, must be especially alert to the dangers of causing harms that disproportionately affect women, children, Indigenous Peoples and other potentially vulnerable or marginalised groups.
These Principles have been singled out for praise by Women in Mining UK (WIM), a non-profit organisation that promotes and progresses the development of women in the mining and mineral sector. WIM has expressed the opinion that these provisions go further in promoting gender diversity and sensitivity to the position of women in society than any other existing mining industry framework or guidelines.3
Today we released 'Women in Mining and the Responsible Gold Mining Principles - A guide to best practice' to further highlight what gold miners can do to support women working in the mining industry.
In addition, the WGC members support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In a report we released last year, we highlight efforts from World Gold Council members to advance SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, include providing a more gender-sensitive and inclusive working environment inside the company in order to attract and retain female talent at all levels. But many WGC members have also taken on gender related issues that exist beyond the mine gates including providing employment and contracting opportunities for women living in the communities surrounding the mines. You can read more these efforts here.
What’s next for the gold mining sector?
We believe that the biggest challenge to achieve gender equality is around building the pipeline of new talent entering the gold mining sector. As such we have partnered up with two organisations International Women in Mining and Women in Mining UK to support their programmes of helping women in the sector.
Working with International Women in Mining (IWiM) we are proud to sponsor two women working in the gold mining sector who have been selected to IWiM’s well-regarded mentorship programme. I believe that mentorship and guidance is key to success and I am personally grateful to the men and women that have supported me in my career and still do.
We are also teaming up with Women in Mining UK to sponsor a student taking the Imperial College Mcs Metals and Energy Finance course. In my conversation with Carol Halsall, Senior Teaching Fellow at Imperial College, she highlighted to me their desire to have more women enrol in the course. I think that as the collective mining sector it’s our responsibility to make a career in the sector more desirable and rewarding for women.
As Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist once said “How important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” Today is a day to celebrate our she-roes who are playing such an important part in the gold mining sector. I encourage you to follow our social accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn and those of our members who are highlighting the many women working for our industry.