Trends in Focus

Supporters Of Women In Mining USA Show Both In-Person And Virtually What Is Driving Diversity And Inclusion In The Industry And The Power Of The Minority Voice.

By Donna Schmidt

Photo: WIM USA/Peggy Engle

The theme of “Changing the Face of Mining” was certainly fitting for the 2021 Women in Mining USA national conference, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, from Oct. 21-23. With more than 140 attending in person and another 240 attending via a virtual simulcast, the number of voices heard was a record, according to organizers.

With that healthy attendance came strong opinions and input for the topics covered on the meeting’s agenda, which included both panel discussions and roundtable talks intertwined by keynote talks from women and inclusion supporters from across mining.

There were a number of trends that emerged during the multi-day meeting, one of the most interesting of which related to a roundtable discussion entitled “Collectively making an impact – Radical ideas for accelerating a more diverse and inclusive workforce” that, over the course of about one hour, compiled dozens of perspectives on ways to help mining diversify and boost awareness from four viewpoints: women in mining, companies, education and individuals.

For women in mining, some of the ideas included educational scholarships designed for women, a database or website accessible for resume posting or browsing for career opportunities, and adding recruitment opportunities at partnership events.

Attendees also suggested creating a research arm that can publish industry-wide reports on DEI statistics, and on-site, adding the ability to have rotational assignments and thus widen their skillsets.

As for what companies can do to advance diversity and inclusion, conference guests put training for unconscious bias at the top of the list – that is, for hiring managers to realize in job descriptions, interview questions and other related recruiting efforts to ensure language and connotation of wording and job task descriptions do not, without intent, have a bias toward a male that might also seek the same position. 

Not far behind that was addressing the wage gap, including introducing transparency in hiring as it relates to compensation, and for companies to begin from the mindset of gender diversity and parity and instill those values from the top ranks down.

Other ideas included community outreach, on-site facilities such as day care, flexibility in role locations (in office versus remote) and investing in talent.

Social media, public education, gamification and simulators were at the top of the suggestion list for those who asked about education advancement ideas. Vocational job shadowing, offering accessible intro to mining courses, and internal education on diversity and inclusion also were among the trending responses.

Finally, conference attendees felt that the industry can accelerate and advance diversity and inclusion at the individual level by personalizing the recruitment process, and outwardly work to provide a safe place for people to work and communicate – as it will not only establish trust, but also reflect positively for the company that is looking to add to their staff. Others suggested taking the world of mining to students at an even earlier age, including Girl Scouts mining-related badges, bringing a student to work days, a Wall of Women, and establishing STEM partners that can help boost the growing trend of women in the mining industry.

The WIM USA national conference will return in the spring of 2023 to Tucson, Ariz., and be hosted by the group’s Arizona chapter.

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