Canadian Mining Journal

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REPORT: Is gender equality mining’s ESG blind spot?



Mining companies' varying scores on protecting female workers from harassment and violence. Credit: Responsible Mining Foundation

Mining companies’ varying scores on protecting female workers from harassment and violence. Credit: Responsible Mining Foundation

SWITZERLAND – Despite an increasing focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance factors),  mining companies are failing to consider the disproportionate effects of mining on women and girls, says a report released today by the Responsible Mining Foundation, an independent research organization.

While miners are starting to look seriously at increasing the proportion of women at the board and senior management level, the report found that most companies aren’t even attempting to assess the impact of their operations on women.

The report, entitled Gender inequality runs deep in mining, looked at the gender-related ESG policies and practices of 38 large-scale mining companies, from tracking and reporting diversity at the board level to measures supporting local procurement from women.

The report found that the most progress was at the top levels of companies, with less progress in terms of policies affecting female workers, and very little in terms of women in mining-impacted communities.

The majority of companies are tracking and actively trying to improve the number of women on their boards (30 of 38 companies), but at the worker level, policies are less female-friendly. Only seven companies have policies ensuring female workers have PPE that fits (Newmont and UC Rusal earned the highest scores on this metric; the companies in the report include a mixture publicly traded, private and state-owned companies). Only fifteen companies have policies to help protect female workers from harassment and gender-based violence, and according to the report, “none of the assessed companies is able to show systemic action on this issue.”

More widely speaking, in order to support gender equality, companies need to be aware of the effects of their operations on women, the report notes. This is especially so because women face increased health, economic and social status risks due to mining. However, the report found “virtually no evidence” of companies attempting to regularly assess their impact on women.

“Even positive actions on community engagement and investment, if conducted without due consideration of gender issues, can further disadvantage women,” says the report. “Such gender-blind interventions at best perpetuate, and potentially exacerbate, existing discrimination and marginalization of women. This is particularly true where women face additional barriers due to, for example, their age, religion, ethnicity, or access to economic resources.”

Gender-blind policies in procurement, for example, can punish women. While the majority of companies assessed in the report have policies addressing the development of local procurement opportunities, only nine have policies aimed at the inclusion of women.

“Only a small minority of companies take proactive measures to include women in their local procurement support measures, and without such measures, women will most likely be excluded,” notes the report.

The report includes several suggestions that companies can take to make progress on gender inequality. These include: development of a company-wide gender equality policy; a review of existing policies to check for unintended gender bias; tracking and reporting of data including recruitment and retention by gender; and open dialogue with women within the company and in local communities about their concerns.

To read the full report, visit http://responsibleminingfoundation.org.


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