HR Outlook

Inclusion and diversity in mining: steps from dialogue to action

By Melanie Sturk

Melanie SturkAs the director of attraction, retention and transition at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council and a member of the Women in Mining Canada Board of Directors for 2012, I have had the opportunity to be part of many interesting, forward-thinking discussions and initiatives related to diversity in Canada’s mining industry and the barriers that keep our sector from being inclusive. Based on the conversations I have taken part in over the last five years, there is a significant desire on the part of human resources departments to make change.

Since June 2011, I have been working with eight companies on developing, implementing and measuring diversity and inclusion plans to literally change the faces of mining at companies and on sites. The Take Action for Diversity Network, an organization composed of some of Canada’s top mining employers, including Vale, De Beers Canada, Noront Resources, BHP Billiton, Cameco, Iron Ore Company of Canada, Iamgold and Teck Resources Ltd., is committed to increasing engagement of women, youth and Aboriginal peoples in the industry.

Over the past year, these companies have committed to implementing creative and effective actions to increase diversity within their workforces. A complete report on this project will be available at in spring 2013, but there are already some good examples of creative solutions that have emerged from the network’s efforts.

One company brought high school girls and their teachers to a local mine site to expose them to the environment and to help change perceptions. A post-visit questionnaire indicated the visitors’ perceptions had changed for the positive. This kind of work breaks down the unrealistic perceptions youth may have about the industry before the stereotypes they may have been exposed to become fixed in their minds.

Another company has reviewed its advancement program to identify and eliminate any systemic barriers to progression for Aboriginal peoples and other groups. For instance, expecting employees to self-promote for advancement opportunities can be culturally inapt. Ensuring appropriate role models and mentorship can encourage advancement of under-represented groups.

A third company has identified high-performing Aboriginal employees and engaged them in a career and succession planning process with a consultant to help these individuals ad­vance within the company. This investment in their employees’ futures will provide inspiration to other Aboriginal employees.

What makes the difference?

Leading change is not easy. Human resources departments are often required to be reactive and put out fires, so even with the noblest intentions, diversity and inclusion initiatives are put on the back burner. What makes the difference? There are three things: (1) ensuring true commitment to diversity and inclusion from the company’s decision-makers, not simply providing a feel-good statement in the corporate brochure; (2) allocating a team to the important task of diversity and inclusion, where results are tied to each member’s performance plan and bonus structure; and (3) resourcing a solid, yet flexible, diversity and inclusion plan based on the realities of the communities in which the company operates, with education, labour and community partners and strict timelines.

It is time to get creative about breaking through barriers that hinder the sector’s ability to attract, recruit, advance and retain under-represented demographic groups. In a sector with such proven problem-solving skills, technology, experience and intelligence, surely we can come up with solutions to improve public perception, to make working in mining more compatible with family life (with flexible schedules, work/life balance) and to improve access to education and training in remote areas for those interested in mining careers.

Melanie Sturk is the director of attraction, retention, and transition at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), the national HR council for Canada’s minerals and metals industry. MiHR contributes to the strength, competiveness and sustainability of the mining industry by collaborating with all communities of interest in the development and implementation of HR solutions. Melanie is responsible for the initiatives that encourage new workers, particularly those from under-represented groups, to engage in mining careers that support the industry by enhancing workplace diversity.

Post a comment


PDF Version