Sharing the stories and progress of women in mining and engineering roles is vital to inspire more women to enter these sectors, according to South African-based blasting and explosives leader BME, part of the Omnia Group.

Dr Rakhi Pathak

BME senior product manager Dr Rakhi Pathak.

“It is important that we plough back into the communities we come from, for instance by hosting career expos to showcase the careers available in this sector,” says Dolphy Mathibe, BME GM Human Resources. “Investing in mathematics and science subjects in schools lays the right foundation to open doors for young women to be accepted into engineering and other technical studies.”

Mathibe highlights that more needs to be done to raise the number of women in the mining sector.

“The exclusion of women in this sector is systemic,” she says. “While a lot of corporates in this industry are challenging their historic practices to make the sector more inclusive, the proportion of women is still low.”

According to BME senior product manager Dr Rakhi Pathak, many more women have been attracted to the industry and now play a vital role in a range of disciplines.

“In mining generally, however, women are still under-represented at senior, decision-making levels,” says Dr Pathak. “Many companies – in line with the Mining Charter – are encouraging gender equality, but it’s still more on paper than in practice.”

She says more action is required to create the pathways for women to enter and progress in the sector. This would help build the capacity for more women to take up strategic decision-making positions in mining.

“The growing focus on sustainability and community responsibility in mining means more inclusion and empathy be demonstrated by leadership, and women are well equipped to contribute,” she says. “This adds value to mining as teams work with greater cohesiveness, accountability and vision – which all adds up to increased productivity.”

Dr Bonny Victor, BME’s Research & Development and Quality Assurance manager, highlights the need for more exposure of mining opportunities to girls and young women at school and university.

Dr Bonny Victor

Dr Bonny Victor, BME’s Research & Development and Quality Assurance manager.

“Initiatives like internships and practical excursions to mine sites are valuable,” says Dr Victor. “School learners and undergraduates benefit enormously from seeing a working mine or manufacturing facilities; this helps to convey what the jobs and opportunities actually involve.”

She notes that mining subjects were not limited to mining or chemical engineering – emphasising that the industry needed disciplines ranging from physics and geology to software development and machine learning.

“There is also increased demand in mining for skills in humanities and environmental disciplines, especially with mining’s more holistic, cradle-to-grave approach to mine planning and management,” she says.

BME’s bursary programme focuses on learners completing high school, and aims to increase the number of women bursary holders. The programme has successfully attracted young women into studies that could lead to careers in the mining sector – including possible employment at BME when opportunities arise. The company provides coaching and mentoring for new mining graduates by linking them with experienced professionals in the business.

A recent school-level initiative at BME was to donate a mobile science laboratory that could be used by schools near its Losberg plant in southern Gauteng. This promotes science and technology, as well as scientific careers among school learners.

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