THE STRENGTH OF WOMEN IN MINING
For years the mining industry has been considered as an exclusive field for men; yet today, that paradigm is changing. For example, out of all those hired in Chilean mining companies in 2017, women made up 12.7% (Fuerza Laboral de la Gran Minería 2017-2026). These figures represent slow but steady progress, especially when compared to previous years.
According to statistics found in the study done by the Chilean Mining Council, women comprised 7.5% of the industry’s work force in 2015. Notably, this figure is still very far from the 47% of the share they have in the national economy (Casen 2015). However, the mining industry has begun to implement a variety of measures that promote gender equality inside of mine sites by promoting the entry, permanence and development of women in work environments that are traditionally categorized as masculine. To this effect, studies done in recent years have shown that incorporating women into the mining workforce has boosted development in topics such as safety and productivity. Likewise, their inclusion has generated social, cultural and behavioral changes within organizations.
Given all of this, how have women’s experiences been when entering the mining industry? Three of our workers tell us their stories.
Ángela Orellana: Truck Driver for Segtran
From a very young age, Ángela has followed in her father’s footsteps and that is why she started driving trucks at 15. She has worked in the mining sector for 7 years and emphasizes the friendly coexistence she shares with her coworkers.
For Ángela, incorporating women into mine sites has allowed different benefits to flourish, such as “greater care for the machinery, increased team work and a better work environment”.
With regard to any working prejudices that could be found within mines, Ángela declares that “the claim that working at a mine is just a job for men is completely false, just like driving a truck is not synonymous with brusqueness. On the contrary, today’s equipment is becoming more delicate and women possess that special type of care”.
Claudia Chávez: Head of Occupational Health and Safety
Claudia understands first hand that some years ago working in a mine as a woman was more complex, very few even dared to enter the industry; however, those who did managed to change this perspective.
Her relationship with mining began through her father who worked in drilling. Claudia tells us that “he wanted me to study geology, but I decided to study mining because I have always liked the execution of this type of work; and that’s how it has been since I was 24 years old, working at mine sites”.
“In order to work in this industry, it is necessary to like mining. You must be willing to work in shifts, spend time in cold and hot environments, be in the mud and get dirty; this applies just as much for men as women and if you are willing to do all of this, you will enjoy your job”.
María Ángélica Villalobos: Purchasing Analyst
After 12 years of working in the field, 10 of which at Minera Tres Valles, María Angélica exclaims that is has been easy to adapt to the world of mining due to her having a good work environment and friendly colleagues.
“Today, women have managed to overcome many biases by inserting themselves in positions that were formerly made up of just men, such as mining. When I participated in my professional internship, small-scale miners would not allow me to enter into their mines because they still believed that the mere presence of women brought bad luck; this does not happen anymore, and women are becoming increasingly welcome”.
María Angélica emphasizes that it is not an obstacle for women to work in the field of mining, “we have the same abilities as men and we can do any job put in front of us, it only depends on if we want to do it”.