Era of the pale male
I was one of a record-breaking crowd of 750 who attended the 18th annual Mining Hall of Fame dinner on Jan. 19. The master of ceremonies Pierre Lassonde was very witty. Lassonde’s day job is the presidency of Denver-based Newmont Mining, which was the world’s largest gold miner until midnight that night, when Barrick Gold moved up into the top spot. (Better keep both your day and your evening jobs, Pierre; you never know.)
After dinner, six more men were inducted into the Mining Hall of Fame. Only one of the 127 total inductees is female, and almost all are of European descent. This is not surprising since the Canadian mining industry used to be peopled predominantly by white men. Used to be, but is it still?
I couldn’t help noticing that the room was filled with mainly pale males, with perhaps 10% women and a handful each of blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Two of the dozen honoured guests at the head table were women, apparently a record-breaking high feminine representation. From the look of the notables in the room, the future inductees will probably continue to be dominated by more of the same.
You may be thinking, “Here comes a feminist rant. Jane’s upset because she’s not the CEO at some mining company.” No, I am not entitled to such a position for two good reasons: I am a geologist (they rarely make the top jobs), and I place more value on time with my husband and children than in the office.
The women at the head table that night were incoming PDAC president and long-time Teck Cominco employee Patricia Dillon, and Beth Kirkwood, president and CEO of First Nickel Inc., whose Lockerby mine is profiled on p.12 of this issue. As determined, capable, high-energy people, these women deserved their place at the head table, as did the men.
Dillon and Kirkwood are both members of a Toronto-area Women in Mining network that I also belong to, whose mailing list numbers 123-not a small number, and by no means comprehensive. So why is the industry still so male?
Mining has not kept up with the changing demographics. Universities have been graduating sizable numbers of women and non-European engineers, geologists and business people for decades, but relatively few have entered or stayed in the mining industry.
For an organization to succeed, it has to attract and make full use of the whole talent pool. Check prejudices at the door. Consider only a person’s ideas, knowledge, capabilities and ambitions.