Back in 2010, research carried out by Women in Mining Canada and the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) found that women represented just 14.4 per cent of the mining and exploration workforce - the lowest among primary industry categories in Canada. The statistics are slowly improving, but there's still a long way to go to achieve anything like equal representation.
Having said all that, women in mining across the world are passionate advocates of the industry. They say mining jobs are challenging, fascinating, diverse and well paying.
So if you're looking to forge a career in this dynamic industry, here are some expert words of advice from our psychologist Angie Willcocks. (These tips are drawn from Angie’s discussions with successful women in a range of male-dominated industries, combined with general workplace resilience philosophies).
- Understand your own values: Identifying your core values will help you to make positive decisions about what you want from your career, and will guide your behavior and attitude when the going gets tough. Your values will also help you to set meaningful goals. To establish your own values, it’s worth thinking about the people you admire (real people as well as fictional characters from movies etc) and name their specific characteristics. Examples are compassionate, assertive, strong, intelligent, innovative and calm.
- Be clear about your goals: They will help to keep your mind occupied with problem solving at challenging times. Enlist the support of a trusted manager or supervisor to help with setting and reaching goals, or seek external coaching or mentoring.
- Adjust your thinking style: This includes positive problem-solving skills and an optimistic view of the workplace. When working in a tricky situation it's important not to fall into unhelpful thinking patterns. Common thinking traps are ‘magnifying’ (blowing a problem out of proportion), ‘personalizing’ (making the problem all about you) and ‘over-generalizing’ (making any problem about your gender, when the issue might actually have nothing to do with it).
- Keep your sense of humor
- Know what problems are yours to solve and what to leave to others.
- Be thick skinned: This comes back to your thinking style – try not to take things personally. Let comments slide unless they are offensive or ongoing.
- Avoid sexual relationships with colleagues.
- Look after yourself physically: Physical health is important for any career, but especially in male-dominated industries which might be more physically demanding.
- Be prepared to work hard: maybe even harder than you think you should have to.
- Pick your battles
- Regulate your emotions: Basically, this means recognizing that you are angry, upset or excited, but keeping these feelings in check so they don't feel overwhelming. As a generalization, women tend to show their feelings more than men, and can sometimes let their emotions inform their decision-making. Knowing yourself is important for emotional regulation – for example, what situations are likely to bring up strong emotions for you?
- Control your impulses: This is a bit like emotional regulation, but refers to behaviors. Good impulse control means that you are able to think and feel strongly about something, but keep your behaviors in check. It's not just about keeping your cool when you feel angry, but also about being able to act assertively even when you don't feel confident.
- Be willing to 'put yourself out there' for new challenges
- Know your industry and join industry groups to promote yourself.
- And finally, for moms working away, unfortunately you might sometimes face criticism for not assuming the ‘traditional’ role of primary carer for the children. Remember there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to families these days – you’ve got to do what works best for your little team. Just be very clear on why you are working away, seek out strong support networks and mentors and stay focused on the positives. And be realistic: we all find life tough sometimes, and that's OK. (For more on this, read: Moms in mining and resources)
Women in Mining (WIM) Canada is a national not-for-profit organization formed in 2009 and focused on advancing the interests of women in the minerals exploration and mining sector. Their mission is to enhance the personal and professional development of women across the country, and provide a strong voice within the global minerals and mining community. www.wimcanada.org