Gender and Extractives

9. An Industry Perspective 

As the principle operators within the extractives sector, the way in which companies interact with communities and their hiring and supplier practices will be key determinants of how gender issues are integrated into the sector. The need to address gender issues in the sector is a relatively new area and as yet there does not seem to be an industry consensus on how to address it. However companies are aware of the need to hire women and view strong community relations as crucial to the success of projects.

The main way through which companies have considered gender is through their hiring practices. Many companies have positive statements and initiatives aimed at increasing the involvement of women, be it women on boards, women within management or women working at a local level. See below and the following page for some examples:

  • Lonmin partnered with the International Finance Corporation to produce a guidance document on promoting women into the sector. The document provides a step by step guide to integrating women into mining, noting that successful integration of women into the sector can ensure greater benefits for communities as well as contributing to a more equitable society (see IFC, Lonmin, Women in Mining: A guide to integrating women into the workforce).
  • South Africa, where Lonmin operate, set a legislative requirement in 2002 for companies to ensure 10% of their workforce was women by 2009. Beyond the legislative requirement, the document notes the business case for integrating women into the workforce, in that it leads to an increase in productivity, efficiency, profitability and reliability; as well as the corporate social responsibility to break the cycle of poverty through employing women.

  • An IFC paper on women’s employment has noted that several companies including Anglo American and Rio Tinto are taking initiatives in this space, from creating women and family friendly working condition, improving HR policies and systems, creating a supportive management culture, and identifying employee trends through gender disaggregated databases.

  • In Chile, women only represent 6% of all mining workers. Anglo American Copper there have been proactive in recruiting women into the work force in various positions, including supervisory positions, where the proportion has increased from 4 to 15% from 2006 to 2013.

There is still a long way to go on this, however. Globally, there are many Women in Mining initiatives, aiming to support women within the sector. Women in Mining UK produced a series of reports on women in boards with PwC, and supported by Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, prompted by the lack of female representation. The International Women in Mining initiative has members from over 45 countries and focuses on representation of women on boards, amount of women speaking at conferences and women’s representation in the sector.

Other methods have been through looking at community level issues. Rio Tinto has produced a guidance document on integrating gender considerations into their work with communities (see Rio Tinto, Why gender matters). The document stems from an understanding of the importance of gender considerations in quality community engagement and gaining and maintaining a social licence to operate, as well as improving the lives and employment opportunities of those affected by mining operations. The guide looks at gender along four phases of community engagement: know and understand; plan and implement; monitor, evaluate and improve; and report and communicate, and draws on case studies from eleven countries.  Similarly, Newmont Mining has an initiative in Ghana called the Women's Consultative Committee aimed at enhancing women’s involvement in decision making.

Understanding the importance of early engagement with communities, the IFC has produced guidance on this topic, specifically aimed at junior companies working in the extractive industries, noting the resource constraints junior companies may have in this area (see IFC, A Strategic Approach to Early Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Junior Companies in the Extractive Industries). The guidance specifically looks at the need for a gender responsive approach.