Dec '09/Jan '10

The double X factor

Women organize to expand their role in the industry

By C. Shaw

 

Members of the WIM Canada board of directors: Catharine Shaw, secretary; MaryAnn Mihychuk, president; and Jean Lucas, vice-president


A few generations ago, women in the mining industry were noted for their novelty. Over time, they have made some advances, but their potential is still largely untapped. While they make up half of the broader labour force, women constitute only 13 per cent of the mining industry workforce. To close this gap and address the human resource shortage on the horizon, mining industry women have come together to establish Women in Mining (WIM) Canada. Their objective is to turn what was once an industry curiosity — women in mining — into an organized force that will play an essential and strategic role in the future.

WIM Canada president MaryAnn Mihychuk, a professional geologist and former Manitoba Mines Minister, describes the organization’s role. “This new association will provide a national voice for women in a male-dominated profession and a vehicle for us to network across Canada and beyond. We will showcase the contributions of women and mentor those who want to join a vibrant and adventurous industry.”

WIM Canada has over 100 paid members in addition to a network of 2,600 others. This is impressive, given that the organization was conceived over a luncheon meeting in March 2009 and incorporated the following August. WIM’s inaugural event, “Knowledge, Network and Navigate,” was held in Toronto in October 2009. It attracted 120 students, human resource scouts and professionals from across the mining industry spectrum, including CEOs, CFOs, COOs, accountants, engineers, geologists and entrepreneurs. In addition to swelling its ranks with new members, the event helped WIM Canada secure new sponsorship commitments and enrol volunteers for future projects.

During the reception, WIM introduced its Board of Directors, which comprises MaryAnn Mihychuk, Jean Lucas, Mary Louise Hall, Catharine Shaw, Lynda Bloom, Kathy Chapman and Marilyn Spink. Details of a major new study were also announced. The study, entitled RAMP-UP, focuses on gender issues related to Canada’s mining industry. Once completed, it will offer a vivid perspective on the issues women face and provide valuable insight into how to create opportunities and recruit more women, and how to retain existing female workers and create a more responsive community for them.

WIM Canada commissioned the Conference Board of Canada to conduct the survey for the study. The survey sought to measure the proportion of women in the industry, understand their career choices and identify both the obvious and subtle barriers to entry and advancement that they face. Nearly 3,000 individuals and enterprises were invited to participate in the survey, which has received support from the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, the Mining Association of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Deliotte, Cameco, the Iron Ore Company of Canada/Rio Tinto and The Bedford Group.

The results of the survey will be released in March 2010 as a part of the International Women in Mining Networking Reception at the PDAC Convention in Toronto. WIM Canada will use the findings to lobby industry, government agencies and educational institutions to address the issues they raise. The results will also help establish a baseline against which progress in opening the field up to women can be measured.

For further information, contact Women in Mining Canada at wim.canada@gmail.com

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