This report was done by the Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership. This organization promotes equitable representation of women in democratic institutions at all levels of government and in all positions of leadership within the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Canada is a major player in the world mining industry, producing more than 60 different minerals and metals. The Canadian mining industry provides an important contribution to Canada’s economy, accounting for 4.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 23% of Canadian exports in 2011. Moving forward, however, the industry faces key challenges, such as serious labour
shortages due to an aging workforce, requiring strong recruitment of new talent. According to the Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts Report (2011), the mining industry will require 45,760 new people by 2016 and 75,280 new workers by 2021.
Despite the looming labour shortage, women remain underrepresented in all of the industry’s employment opportunities, from entrance positions to leadership posts. In fact, women’s employment in the mining industry – at around 15% for the past 14 years – is very low compared to other key economic sectors: mining (18.6%), service (71.86), public administration (47.70%), manufacturing (21.70%), energy (24.56%), finance (61.53%), tourism and transport (45.21%). Women’s employment did marginally increase from approximately 14% in 1988 to 18.6% in 2011.
In 2007, 24% of female university graduates completed engineering and technology related programs and 9% of female apprenticeship program graduates completed male-dominated skilled trade. Therefore, it is expected that we would see similar proportions of females in such positions in the mining industry. However, as of 2006, female employees represented only 5% of workers in such occupations in the industry suggesting additional barriers for female participation other than the labour shortage of women in the industry.
These occupations are especially important for the future of the mining industry in Canada. The Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts Report (2011) estimates that such trade and technical occupations will constitute approximately 73% of the total labour needs of the mining industry by 2016 and 2021, while the professional and science related occupations will represent 7.3% of the total labour needs by the same period.
Additional factors, beyond the overall level of women’s participation in the industry, need to be considered to understand the underrepresentation of women in senior and executive positions. A global literature review study on women and mining highlighted challenges facing women, especially relating to opportunities to advance to senior leadership positions. A number of interviews and focus groups, conducted with men and women in the industry, confirmed challenges and deepened the understanding of the work that needs to be done to change outcomes.
The results that we obtained from the interviews and the literature review, both in mining and other sectors, clearly demonstrate a need for a holistic approach that simultaneously addresses multiple factors adversely affecting women’s representation in leadership positions. Such an approach recognizes that supply and demand arguments, that consider women’s underpresentation to be simply as a result of a smaller talent pool, are not correct. More specifically, the traditionally male-dominated workplace culture and its infusion into working values and styles, as well as communication practices,
and lack of support for managing family responsibilities, pose key obstacles for women’s advancement to executive positions.
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