Women no longer play the minor roles they once did in the mining industry, instead, they now hold positions of authority and knowledge in this traditionally male-dominated industry.
However, there are persistent hurdles that they say must be removed.
The advancement of women in mining has been hailed as a bold and progressive step in the sector where gender stereotypes are still common.
42-years-old Human Resource Consultant, Tebogo Mosito and an enthusiastic mother of 4, quit her regular job to venture into mining, not as an employee, but as an entrepreneur.
She soon obtained a qualification in steel engineering, where she later established a female-owned steel engineering and mining support business. Her company currently employs more than 50 people.
Mosito says she does not settle for crumbs but goes for big projects in the sector. She says these include boiler-making, mechanical fitting, pipe fitting and structural engineering.
“I see myself as a successful person because when I started the business, I started with a zero balance, but today I also as a woman entrepreneur understand the financials of my business and I’m able to invest in assets that are helping the business to grow, unlike when I started. I didn’t know how to grow this business. I’ve persevered; I’ve been through so many challenges. I understand. I’ve learned through my failures,” explains Mosito.
Challenges for women in mining
She claims that despite her ability to complete some large-scale projects, they continue to face numerous obstacles and are constantly forced to collaborate on joint venture projects with other big companies that aren’t even prepared to give them an equal opportunity to participate or the chance to advance their careers.
“…So, as women it’s very frustrating that we always have to be sub-contractors or be in joint ventures,” she adds.
Not far from her office, are female managers at one of Impala Platinum’s operations. After years of service, they now possess senior management-level positions.
Skhumbuzo Nokwane is a concentrator manager and Tina Malau is the head of stakeholder engagement.
Nokwane adds, “Part of my responsibilities as well, also include that, from a woman’s perspective, we groom those that are behind, so that we set them up for success in future where there are prospective vacancies or roles.”
Women are capable
“If you look at my journey from the way I started as a consultant, receptionist and a social affairs manager, and today heading up a department. It’s evident that women are capable. It’s evident that women can make it in the industry, and it’s evident that women have got the capacity to do that which in the past used to be known as male-dominated functions.” says Malau.
Another trailblazer in the industry is Nonkululeko Mabuza who is balancing her responsibilities as a mine manager and the pillar of her family.
“I do wear different hats, currently; I’m wearing a mine manager hat. I’m on the job. I also wear another hat, where I’m someone’s sister, I’m someone’s partner, I’m a community member and all of those hats require me to pay 100% attention. So, I’m very deliberate in what I do throughout my day, throughout my month, to make sure that I do not stop in any area of my life,” explains Mabuza.
While they have made inroads into the mining sector, gender stereotypes persist and the prevailing sentiment is ”do away with that!”