Growing up in Peru 50 years ago, it was unheard of for a woman to enter the mining industry — there were even superstitions about women working underground, according to Anna Tudela, vice-president of regulatory affairs and corporate secretary at mining company Goldcorp in Vancouver.
Today, the world has obviously changed, but it’s still not an easy road for many women interested in the mining sector. Which is why Tudela started Creating Choices in 2010, a program at Goldcorp to help women grow both individually and professionally by building their confidence, knowledge and abilities and providing greater opportunities.
Creating Choices began in Guatemala City and Mexico City and has since expanded to every Goldcorp operation and corporate and regional office in eight countries throughout the Americas. Such was the success of the program that in 2015, Growing Choices — a second, more in-depth phase of the program — was launched at an Ontario mine.
“More needs to be done to encourage women’s career development in this traditionally male-dominated industry, both in Canada and globally,” said Tudela. “One of Goldcorp’s strategic pillars is growing people, so expanding women’s capabilities in mining makes sense for our company. It also benefits the entire sector.”
Goldcorp is a leader in this area and it has clearly identified women as a strategic source of labour and developed some innovative approaches, said Ryan Montpellier, executive director of the MiHR (Mining Industry Human Resources) Council in Ottawa.
“Goldcorp is not alone in this… several mining companies today have made a very strategic decision to aim to try to create this environment that is more open and inclusive to women. This is something that I am certain we are going to see more and more of over the course of the next generation or the next decade, as the mining companies develop policies that focus specifically on attracting, recruiting, retaining and advancing women.”
And there have been improvements, with female participation in the mining industry at about 17 per cent compared to 10 per cent 15 years ago, he said.
“There’s still a long way to go and obviously a lot of benefit in tapping into this unused source of labour.”
That’s particularly true when it comes to more senior roles, where only about six or seven per cent are taken up by women, said Montpellier.
“Part of attracting women into the industry as a whole, part of a successful strategy in doing that, is having role models in more senior roles. And we are seeing more and more women take on those roles, in more supervisory or management occupations.”
Creating Choices has six modules:
• “Realize Self-Esteem”: Acknowledge personal worth, talents, skills and value to others.
• “Dare to Dream”: Define self-fulfillment, personal aspirations or professional ambitions.
• “Choose to Take the Stage”: Build courage and conviction to see the world as your stage.
• “Create a Strong Script”: Portray confidence, assertiveness and leadership qualities.
• “Unlock the Power of Your Voice”: Realize strength of identity, proceed with poise and stand up for your views.
• “Achieve a Leader’s Presence”: Signal confidence through image, body language and a sense of self.
Each module uses a video format and takes about two hours to teach, and each mine designs how it wants to deliver the content to interested participants, such as two hours per day for five days or two full days, said Tudela. Once the program is completed, participants are assigned mentors for a year and then Tudela checks back with them to gauge their development.
People who complete the course receive a certificate and, thus far, more than 1,200 women from the 18,000-employee company have graduated.
Boi Linh Van, engineering team leader at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite gold mine in Ontario, was one such graduate. While there weren’t many women when she first arrived at the company in 2003, the numbers have improved, she said. And if there were any obstacles, they were internal, “in terms of getting ahead, speaking up — all the stuff you need to get noticed,” she said.
So Linh Van was excited to get involved with Creating Choices and keen to have the program offered at her mine.
“I felt like it would be a good opportunity and good growth for my other colleagues,” she said. “It was a really awesome experience… For me, it always has been intimidating to take the stage, so (it’s about) having the confidence to take that step and to step forward and say, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
The newer Growing Choices has four modules that teach women how to: brand themselves as leaders; balance work and life commitments; plan for career success using SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals; and build effective relationships and networks.
And Linh Van is excited about being involved in the new program, saying it’s the next step forward.
“Creating Choices was more about self — building yourself up and getting to that point — and then Growing Choices is about the opportunities and planning for your career and how to network and kind of show yourself off almost, and to work towards it, have a goal in mind on how to achieve that, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Going forward, Goldcorp is looking to track the success of the programs by looking at where women were five years ago, when Creating Choices began, where they are today and where they will be later, said Tudela.
And in the fall, MiHR will release the results of a research study looking at career paths and trajectories for women in mining, said Montpellier, citing issues such as workplace culture, remote locations and restrictive schedules.
“It should be a fairly important publication for us in terms of uncovering some of these barriers and also trying to develop some strategies as to how mining companies can create… more strategic diversity practices.”
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