Mining companies might have strayed off the path towards achieving their critical women empowerment objectives in recent years, as they were more concerned about the health of their businesses, Rabecca a senior partner at high profile legal firm, Herbet Smith Freehills, observed during the 2017 African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.
During the event, which attracted the crème de la crème of global mining business executives, Rebecca Major lamented that, as companies were more focused survive effects of the slump in commodity prices on their operations, sadly, women empowerment initiatives had become the least amongst their priorities.
Major said: “Some of the big mining companies have had real positive programmes to increase the number of women in their companies. Some have set themselves very optimistic objects, which is a good start, but I think the problem for me is, with witnessed uncertainty in commodity prices over the passed 5 years, companies views on advancing women in the industry and issues of diversity, is a ‘nice to have issue’ and not the most important core issue, when your company is fighting to survive.”
Whilst acknowledging that the practice of focusing on ensuring that the business side of operations was sustainable, in the short term, Major felt that in the long term women empowerment had long-term benefits. Instead, she said: “Actively including women in mining companies, will give companies a different perspective and might make them more competitive and successful.”
In addition, Major observed that companies felt more obliged to empower local communities living around a project than integrating women into the mining fold. “Companies will rather empower the local people living around a project than empower women, because that is an important community issue. The need to keep the community happy is more important for the project, in order for it to be accepted, and successful.”