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Why the mining industry needs more women

Diversity's dollar value

Diverse and inclusive teams are known to be more creative, more innovative and even more profitable. Can the mining industry improve its poor diversity record to future-proof its workforce?

What you need to know about diversity in mining

  • Diversity has new importance in the age of innovation 
  • Today's most effective leaders embrace change
  • Prepare for a paradigm shift

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In an era where innovation is highly prized, environments that foster diversity will come up trumps.

Linda Doku

Global Head of Metals and Mining Research

Industry expert with 23 years' experience in commodity marketing, trading, market analysis and corporate strategy.

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The mining industry has a gender diversity problem

Despite the focus on diversity and inclusion in the last two decades, women continue to be vastly under-represented at all levels.

According to Bloomberg, the proportion of women employed by mining companies sits at around 15.7%, up only 1% in the past five years – and the numbers are worse at management level. Just one in 20 global firms is headed by a woman.

Mining is lagging behind in its progress on gender equality. 2018 numbers show the industry has the second-largest median gender pay gap in the UK at 24.9%. Construction comes first at 27%.

The benefits of diversity are widely acknowledged. So why has the mining sector been slow to change? And what can be done to address the gender imbalance?

Diversity has new importance in the age of innovation

The mining industry is changing rapidly. As commodity prices fluctuate, companies are embracing data, analytics and connectivity to help them compete. In this new era, organisational agility and fast-paced innovation are strategic imperatives.

And this makes diversity even more important.

Companies that promote inclusivity and foster cognitive diversity have been proven to outperform their peers and tend to be more creative, innovative and productive.

Focusing on the human element in an increasingly virtual world is vital for future success.

Why have some diversity policies been ineffective in creating change?

  • Gender policies can be easily steered off-course by organisational ‘blind spots’.
  • Common pitfalls include overly ambitious targets to achieve unprecedented gender equality goals in record time or policies with criteria that are either too complex or too rigid.
  • There's a risk of leaving individuals feeling undervalued, less worthy and often excluded.
  • The solution lies in first identifying and then addressing these ‘blind spots’. Ineffective policies need to be redesigned to serve their primary purpose: to nurture cognitive diversity so that businesses can be more agile, profitable and sustainable.

Today's most effective leaders embrace change

In an environment that’s constantly being disrupted, the mining industry needs leaders who foster a positive attitude to change. When change is the only constant, the key to success is transformational leadership – a style that empowers and helps teams to build a sense of community and trust. Could this added emphasis on leadership style accelerate the strategic imperative for mining companies to hire more women?

Transformational leadership matters because employees who feel valued as individuals have the collective power to drive change, to propel profitability to a new level. That's essential in the highly competitive landscape that today’s mining companies operate in.

A transformational (or communal) leader is typically described as supportive, flexible, empathetic, caring or nurturing – attributes that, for whatever reason, are more prevalent in women.

Research shows that a communal leadership style results in far better employee engagement scores in comparison to a traditional hierarchical environment. By enhancing motivation and morale, communal leadership can also improve work-life balance and job satisfaction.

The mining industry has a long history built on hard labour, grit and perseverance, reinforcing a system that disproportionately reveres masculine identity. This identity has waning relevance in today’s rapidly changing world.


Mining companies and other large organisations that have traditionally followed a ‘command-and-control’ or hierarchical, masculine-centric leadership model — often described as assertive, controlled, dominant or competitive— will need to adapt if they want to compete.

Prepare for a paradigm shift

As the pace of change in the mining industry accelerates, a paradigm shift is emerging.

The adoption of technology could serve as a positive catalyst for diversity. As the mining industry recognises the need for leaders who can engage and motivate teams more powerfully, this new focus on nurturing transformation could at last help the industry to move the dial on its gender diversity targets.

Female leaders, step forward. The mining industry needs you. It’s time to embrace change.

What's your diversity strategy?

Talk to Linda Doku about her extensive research in this area. Linda has over two decades of experience in commodity marketing and strategy, and has worked with four of the largest global diversified mining and resources companies. 

Contact an Expert

Submit your details to find out more about how we can help you and your organisation

Global Head of Metals and Mining Research