We cannot afford to miss out on half of the country’s work capacity. To succeed in a complex and dynamic business environment, Canada’s mining industry needs to gain access to at least its fair share of talented women. We need to attract skilled women, keep them, capitalize on their strengths and recognize their added value. The National Action Plan lays out the challenge for our industry – to drive a widespread change in culture from yesterday’s mining industry to tomorrow’s.
There can be no doubt that there is fresh momentum to issues of gender inclusion in our country. At the time of writing this Plan, Canada has its first federal government Cabinet that has full gender parity. Several jurisdictions across the country have introduced regulations to require publicly traded companies to explain their progress toward gender equity at senior executive and Board levels . Universities, colleges, associations and nonprofits have undertaken renewed efforts to support girls and young women to pursue educational programs and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields; many have committed to achieving challenging goals, such as the University of British Columbia’s commitment to increasing the number of women in its undergraduate engineering programs to 50% (UBC, 2015).
Our National Action Plan is in keeping with this new tide of change. The Plan is not a soft call to have good intentions for gradual evolution. In 2011, a Conference Board of Canada report concluded that at the then-current rates of change across various sectors of the economy, it would take 151 years before men and women are in equal numbers in middle and senior management positions in Canada (Chenier & Wohlbold, 2011).
The fifteen organizations that have collaborated with WIM Canada on the development of this plan have already taken actions, some of which are outlined below. Contributing their insights and experiences to this National Action Plan, they are challenging Canada’s other mining employers and industry stakeholders to take immediate and purposeful action.
Organizations that are committed to supporting gender inclusion in mining have many opportunities to partner with like-minded groups. There are strong and innovative initiatives in place across the country with demonstrable impact in presenting a positive view of the sector and attracting young women to relevant occupations. Partnership opportunities can include financial or in-kind sponsorships, hosting worksite visits, and taking part as mentors or speakers at events.
CANADIAN CENTRE FOR WOMEN IN SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, TRADES AND TECHNOLOGY (WINSETT) The WinSETT Centre is an action-oriented, non-profit organization that aspires to recruit, retain and advance women in science, engineering, trades and technology (SETT). Offerings include a Leadership Program tailored primarily to early- to mid-career women working in SETT. http://www.winsett.ca/
ENG-CITE – GOLDCORP PROFESSORSHIP IN WOMEN IN ENGINEERING AT UBC eng-cite is the working name of the Goldcorp professorship in Women in Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It aims to broaden the current talent pool by reaching out to high school students, parents, and counsellors to encourage students with aptitude in science, engineering and math to pursue a career in those fields. The program is delivered primarily through events designed for girls in grades 8-12, such as Engineering Explorations, with programming matched to the school curriculum. http://engcite.engineering.ubc.ca/
GOENGGIRL Go Eng Girl is an opportunity for girls in grades 7-9, and one parent/guardian to visit a university to learn about the world of engineering. Girls are grouped with current female undergraduate engineering students for a design-build-test challenge, while parents receive a presentation from the Faculty of Engineering on opportunities in the field. It is offered on the same day annually in universities in several provinces across the country. http://www.onwie.ca/programs/go-eng-girl
MINING MATTERS Mining Matters is an initiative of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) for students in grades K-12. The organization provides current information about rocks, minerals, metals, mining and the diverse career opportunities available in the minerals industry. Mining Matters offers exceptional educational resources that meet provincial curriculum expectations. Programs are developed with the help of sponsorships, donations and in-kind contributions from industry and other funders. http://www.pdac.ca/mining-matters/
NATURAL SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH COUNCIL (NSERC) CHAIRS FOR WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING The Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program (CWSE) was launched in 1996. Its goal is to increase the participation of women in science and engineering, and to provide role models for women active in, and considering, careers in these fields. Programming includes outreach and education to primary and secondary students and their parents, leadership programs for young women professionals, and education and resources for employers. One Chair has been established for each of the following regions: Atlantic: http://www.wiseatlantic.ca/, Quebec: http://cfsg.espaceweb.usherbrooke.ca/, Ontario: http://sciengwomen-ontario.ca/en/, Prairies: http://cwse-prairies.ca/, BC/Yukon: http://www.sfu.ca/wwest.html
SKILLS CANADA Skills/Compétences Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization that actively promotes careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth. Programming is organized on a provincial basis, and includes offerings such as Try-A-Trade® – a partnership with industry, labour groups, associations and post-secondary institutions to engage students in safely sampling one, or a handful, of tangible skills used in day-to-day job activities. http://skillscompetencescanada.com/en/provinces-territories/
WOMEN WHO ROCK Women Who Rock is a professional networking organization dedicated to supporting and empowering women’s leadership and career opportunities within the mining industry. It creates mentorship opportunities by connecting aspiring women to leaders in the industry through its events and outreach activities. http://womenwhorock.ca/
Several of these employers have already taken meaningful actions along the lines outlined in this National Action Plan. For example:
Starting with Commitment from the Top:
Using Baseline and Readiness Assessments:
Taking Action on the Signs and Symbols of a Workplace Culture:
Integrating Work with Personal Commitments:
Training and Coaching:
Targets with Teeth:
Reinforcing the Strategy:
Several of the employers that collaborated with WIM Canada on this action plan were able to provide quantitative results of recent hires, promotions, and changes in representation rates. In the context of a significant industry downturn and the related workforce reductions, they were nonetheless able to achieve positive results. Overall, these results demonstrate our industry’s ability to make significant change when the commitment is solid.
Many of these employers have had a longstanding interest in building a more genderinclusive workplace and increasing the representation of women. Several were already on the path to improved results. Their success can be attributed to their track record and also to the renewed commitment demonstrated in their involvement with this National Action Plan initiative.
Collectively, actions undertaken by these companies demonstrate accountability and leadership, providing a lightning rod for the industry on how to effectively and systematically change our workplaces. Setting measurable goals, creating sustainable change strategies, and collaborating across the industry in good times and in bad will help to shift the mining sector culture to one that is fully inclusive of women and men.
The invitation has been made. Employers throughout Canada’s mining sector, and stakeholders who care about the industry’s success, we encourage you to join in this momentum for change.
12 The industry committee working with WIM Canada on the National Action Plan has 15 members, including 13 employers, MiHR and CIMM.