“Nothing fits,” has long been a lament by women around the world desperate to find professional and leisure wear that is flattering while still comfortable. Fortunately for the women who work at Exxaro’s mines, this is no longer something they have to confront.
Following a redesign of their protective clothing to suit the female body shape, worries about ill-fitting clothing, hard hats and footwear are a thing of the past. The redesign of the personal protective (PPE) equipment clothing is just one initiative undertaken by Exxaro’s Women in Mining committees to attract more women to mining and empower the females who work in the male-dominated industry. Women represent only 13% of the mining labour force of 464 667, according to the Minerals Council South Africa.
“The PPE we provide to our female employees who work on the mines is much more comfortable than it was previously,” admits Exxaro’s executive head of Human Resources and Women in Mining chairperson Vanisha Balgobind, “and it is all thanks to the Women in Mining committees, who are passionate about who they are and their contribution to their work.”
Balgobind says Exxaro strives to ensure that its commitment to women empowerment at all levels not only makes a difference to Exxaro, but to the mining industry at large. “Establishing the committees was a positive step to empowering women in mining. And the PPE was identified as one of many things that didn’t cater for women who work on/in mines. So we set about redesigning the uniform, so it was more accommodating to women,” she says. Balgobind says the designers designed three types of uniforms and piloted it at sites to get feedback from female miners before rolling it out throughout their mines.