You’ve Come a Long Way, Lady



In 2月 2024, ICA member BHP, one of the world’s largest mining companies, made a monumental announcement. It was not about some recently discovered mineral deposit or a change in stock price. BHP attained a much more difficult milestone: more than 40 percent of its Chilean workforce is now female. This number is significant for several reasons:

  1. According to the World Bank, just over 39 percent of the global workforce is female, so BHP’s number tops the global average; and
  2. Also, according to data from the World Bank, 42 percent of Chile’s workforce is female, so BHP’s female employment number nearly matched the national average;
  3. Ernst & Young, in 2022, reported that only 12 percent of the global mining and metals workforce was female, so BHP is exceeding this number exponentially.


While this BHP number is impressive, the mining industry has struggled to employ a female workforce. Part of the challenge lies with misconceptions about mining as a dirty, dangerous job. Yet, today’s mining companies are a far cry from that image. In my job with the International Copper Association, I have seen women drive massive hauling trucks around mine sites, operate autonomous vehicles from behind a wall of computer screens, and manage and lead staff at an auto grinding and flotation facility.

More and more women are reaching the top tier of mining companies. ICA member Freeport-McMoRan recently named Kathleen Quirk, a homegrown leader with more than 30 years’ experience, as its new President. Quirk also earned the 2024 Ankh Award, given by the Copper Club, to recognize outstanding service and commitment to the copper industry; an award that is typically been reserved for men (the award’s former name was “Copper Man of the Year”).

Unfortunately, women only fill about 12 percent of the C-suite positions across more than 2,000 global publicly traded mining companies, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. Women working in the Middle East and Africa hold approximately 31 percent of executive positions, more than double any other region or the global average. ICA members, as well as several female-led mining organizations, are trying to draw women into the mining industry, mentoring and encouraging women to reach senior-level positions within their organizations:

  • Women in Mining U.K. (WIM)—Founded in 2006, Women in Mining UK (WIM UK) advocates and speaks for women in the mining sector, informing industry and decisionmakers of the challenges and opportunities women are finding in pursuing careers in mining companies and other mining-related businesses.
  • Women for Mining (W4M)—Founded by strong female leaders at ICA member Aurubis in 2019, the organization’s vision is to establish the metal industry as an attractive employer for women, where fair conditions (transparent career paths, work-life balance, equal pay, etc.) prevail for all.
  • Women in Mining U.S.A.—A nationwide organization of men and women, founded in 1972, who endeavor to position mining as an equitable, sustainable and reputable industry, and strive to cultivate a mining community that fosters trust and respect.
  • Women in Mining Canada (WIM Canada)—WIM Canada seeks to encourage young women to explore a career within the minerals sector and helps established professionals connect and navigate their way through a successful career in the minerals sector.
  • Women in Mining Chile—Founded in 2015, WIM Chile promotes the inclusion and professional development of women in all positions of the value chain, promoting and increasing their participation and visibility in the mining industry.


Many of ICA’s industry leading members have launched initiatives to encourage women in mining and other technologically driven industries.

  • ICA member Teck works with UN Women’s Originarias Programme to provide Indigenous women in northern Chile access to tools and training to develop skills, build networks and improve their economic well-being through initiatives.
  • Boliden, headquartered in Sweden, created an internal Diversity, Equality and Inclusiveness program to bring women together from diverse backgrounds to encourage collaboration and networking. Through “Female Professionals,” Boliden holds consultations with program participants who share valuable insights on how to attract and retain women in the mining industry.
  • Antofagasta Minerals develops alliances with universities to attract women from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to join their organization and encourage women’s participation in STEM subjects through scholarship programs. In 2022, 45 percent of their new recruits were women.
  • Wherever Freeport operates, it works to ensure girls and women have opportunities to be full participants in economic development and access to greater levels of prosperity. Freeport and its partners developed the Dreambuilder initiative to offer an on-line business training program to thousands of women around the world.
  • Codelco’s Apprentices Program works to strengthen female economic autonomy and provide opportunity for women who reside in local communities. The program, which provides training in mining processes and operations, lasts 12 months and is divided into theoretical and practical stages. After passing the courses, the applicants are certified to perform various functions in industrial areas.


Many of these initiatives are led by women, for women. Experienced female employees are reaching toward the next generation to share their wisdom, offer advice and support their decision making. Studies indicate that companies with diverse staff reap significant benefits, including achieving better financial results when women are in managerial positions and achieving improved safety outcomes under female leaders.

The mining industry is making progress, but the journey is not over. As companies across the globe are looking to hire and train younger staff, its time the mining industry took a closer look at an untapped critical resource: women.

29 三月 2024



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