Women lead companies, boards and entire countries. They have a proven positive impact on business across regions, and across sectors. Studies the world over have shown that companies thrive when they draw from a broad talent pool that includes men and women of different ages, cultures, experiences, orientations and abilities.
Governments are starting to take notice, too, with provinces like Ontario seeking public comments on its provincial securities commission’s approach to fostering improved gender diversity on boards and in senior management roles of listed companies. And yet while the business case for diversity is clear, the mining sector is widely perceived as lagging when it comes to harnessing the benefits of women in leadership.
One 2012 Carleton University report shows women represent only 15% of the population at all levels in this sector — from entry positions to leadership. The report called for “a holistic approach that simultaneously addresses multiple factors adversely affecting women’s representation in leadership positions.”
Studies like these repeatedly indicate that companies with a higher proportion of women in top management show more successful growth in terms of a range of goals, including operating results, employee satisfaction, public image and stock price.
Making sure you’re drawing from a deep, broad and diverse talent pool to ensure you have the best people on the best teams isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a business imperative for companies looking to thrive in today’s new normal. Take the fact that diversity has been shown to foster better business results overall, and add in the reality that a looming skills shortage remains a top risk for the mining sector overall, and the business case for inclusiveness in the mining sector — whether it be gender, ethnicity or other differences — is clear. The key is successfully embedding that philosophy into the business plan, and everything that you do.
At both the organizational and individual levels, we need to be quite deliberate and conscious about investing in advancing women. Some believe that the path to gender equity, for example, is just about fast-tracking women to leadership positions or setting quotas. But more than that, it’s about making sure that women and men get the same development opportunities they need to reach their potential.
A recent EY study, Shaping the Future Together, found that sponsorship and flexibility are two of the most significant enablers of gender equity. Strong and committed sponsorship, where a senior individual actively champions a woman’s career development and takes personal responsibility for removing barriers, plays a crucial role in increasing the visibility of women in an organization. Meanwhile, in regard to flexibility, we’ve found that top managers who successfully champion gender equity enable and proactively implement flexible working solutions.
But initiatives like these don’t work in isolation. They must be a part of a bigger diversity and inclusiveness strategy that’s woven into the business plan — especially in light of increased regulation on the horizon in Canada and abroad. A well-established business case creates a sense of urgency to take action. Organizational structures, manifested through processes, agreements, reward systems and rules and regulations also influence managers’ behaviours and thus play a vital role in creating an equitable workplace and culture.
The success of Canadian businesses depends on the willingness of organizations to tap into, and develop, the widest and deepest pool of talent available. Companies in the mining sector should be seeking to foster an inclusive culture. Without considering the representation of women and other groups at every level, they potentially risk regulatory penalties, reputational damage and, ultimately, financial performance.