Women in mining at Cullinan

The women in mining at Cullinan

Women in South Africa have historically been excluded from working in certain underground positions due to the local law and culture. The often strenuous nature and working conditions of mining activities have also made it unsuitable for women. This has made it difficult to attract and retain female employees. In promoting the presence of women in mining, the Mining Charter has a set target of 10% of the staff complement to be women.

Nora Moseki is a chemical engineer by training who started at the Cullinan mine as a foreman in November 2007. She is now a process overseer in charge of the whole surface production process.

Nora says the mining industry is very challenging as women are not always accepted. Many employees, often men in the older generation, view a young woman in a supervisory position as being less knowledgeable than them. There is also the reluctance of mine employees to report to a woman as they have doubts about a woman’s coping ability in the largely physically demanding environment.

Much as she currently commands respect in her workplace, Nora says it was a long patient journey to gain respect from her colleagues. “Sensitisation of the men is imperative as they feel it is all about women and there are more females in the workplace. Women also need to be given more opportunities in order to prove themselves before being labelled incapable.”

Nora speaks to men at the mine about accepting and respecting women in the workplace when the opportunity arises. She also ensures she personally mentors other women at the mine, especially those with potential. As a consequence, team spirit has improved at Cullinan as men take the initiative to assist women at work.

“A female in the production team balances the team as women are more nurturing and empathetic,” Nora concludes.

A training instructor, Maria Mhlanga has six years’ experience in the mining industry. Having started off as an administration assistant, she gained confidence through her appointment as a shop steward. Maria then became a training instructor and has been training for three years in all the moving surface machinery and conveyor belts. She comments that training can be especially challenging for females as men at times undermine them. This issue of women in mining, amongst others, is being addressed by the human resource development committee made up of both the company and employee representatives, including a selected woman in mining representative.

Maria says that another major challenge for women in the mining field is other non-supportive women, making the workplace a lonely place for many women. Women therefore need to understand themselves and be confident to forge forward in the mining field. She suggests workshops and leadership programmes specifically for women to encourage them to advance at work, as well as support groups to sensitise women and ensure they understand the dynamics of women in mining. ‘Skills gap identification and training for women in the industry will also open up opportunities for them,’ she concludes.

Cullinan ensures that women are being recruited into positions that are more suitable to them such as training or production positions in the plant, onsetters or winding engine drivers. In addition, the establishment of the Leadership Development Programme develops women and mentors them into leadership positions.