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Mining for talent - A study of women on boards in the mining industry

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We have published a report in conjunction with Women in Mining on trends of women on boards and senior executive positions in the global mining industry. Some key findings from the report include:

  • The mining industry has the fewest number of women on its boards of any other industry, with women occupying only 5 per cent of the board positions of the top 500 global listed mining companies
  • Mining companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange had the best level of female board representation, while those listed on the London Stock Exchange had the lowest.
  • Profit margins are higher for mining companies with women on the board

Women’s representation in the senior management of companies has been the subject of considerable public debate in recent years, particularly concerning calls for the introduction of legislative quotas. In addition to the case for greater gender equality, a growing body of evidence suggests that stronger financial performance, improved governance and reduced risk of bankruptcy are associated with the participation of women on corporate boards and in senior management positions. However, there are diverse views, including amongst women, as how to achieve greater gender diversity.

"Profit margins are higher for mining companies with women on the board"

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Mining for talent

Amanda van Dyke Chair of Women in Mining (UK) and Stephney Dallmann a Director in our mining practice discuss the findings of a recent survey of women on boards of mining companies and the implications.


Hello, I’m Stephanie Dalman. I’m a director in our mining practice, here London. We have produced the first of three reports undertaken by Women in Mining UK, in conjunction with Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Latham & Watkins. To help widen the already well discussed debate about the lack of representation of women on boards in the mining industry; I have here with me, Amanda van Dyke, who is the Chair of Women in Mining in the UK. Amanda, tell us a bit about Women in Mining.

Women in Mining is a women‘s professional organisation with over one thousand members., that aims to provide a network for women in the mining industry in London and also to promote and progress the mining industry as a career choice for women.

So, why did you want to do the report? What initiated it?

We very often got the question “Why? Why is it important to have women in mining?” and as part of our mandate is to promote women within the mining industry, we decided to figure out why, and this report was the first stop on the journey to figure out why women in mining were important.

So, the report brings up a number of interesting findings and one of them was that the larger the market capitalisation of the mining company, the more likely they were to have women on the board. Why do you think that was?

There are a few reasons for that. Larger companies are held to a much higher standard when it comes to corporate governance and women on boards and diversity on boards is a higher level of performance. They also have greater resources and greater access when it comes to a talent pool for people on boards, and by using those greater resources and that greater access they tend to access diverse people and women included in that, for their boards.

And, the report also covered all the main mining stock exchanges and some did better than others. Which ones did well and which ones didn’t do so well?

South Africa was the best and second came, not that far behind, was Australia. They both had very, or the most advanced number for women on their boards. The worst by a country mile was London.

And why do you think that was? Why does London not do so well, do you think?

London is the oldest and most traditional exchange for mining companies to be listed on and with that great historical tradition comes the historical tradition of all male boards and changing long held traditions is a lot harder. South Africa and Australia are both much younger countries with younger exchanges. And I think they might be a little bit more open to considering different practices.

And also, in Johannesburg, and in Australia as well, they had some legislation around diversity, didn’t they? Not quotas, but some disclosure around what they needed to do, didn’t they? That made a difference.

I think that probably made a huge difference but the willingness to have some policies in place, I think, is partially because they are younger and a little bit more open to different ways of doing things.

The study also found that profit margins were higher on mining companies where they and more women on the board, which as very interesting. It always gets the attention. And despite this, the number of women on boards in the mining industry is even lower than the oil and gas industry. What do you think the barriers are for women in the mining industry?

Mining is a very, very old – one of the oldest industries on earth - and it is one of the oldest all male industries on earth. And that perception, both within the industry and within the wider world that mining is a man’s world leads to (a) the industry not really recruiting or actively recruiting woman, and (b) women not applying or considering the mining industry as a option for a career and changing – a huge part of this report is changing that perception in the industry, and in the wider world, of mining not being just a man’s world.

And, what difference do you think it would make to have more women on the board for the mining companies, and the industry as a whole?

The jury is in. More women and better diversity on boards lead to better profitability as we have discussed, as well as better stakeholder management, better corporate governance, better risk management, better accounting. Is that because there are women? I’m not sure, but I do know that accessing a wider talent pool leads to a higher level of talent at the top levels.

And what can the industry do now?

I think the industry needs to pay attention. It needs to – women and diversity as a whole – needs to be on the agenda and realise that both at the board level and at the management level, that having diversity, including gender diversity, will make you a better, more efficient, more productive and more profitable company and making sure that that is on the agenda is one of the biggest aims of this report.

Thanks very much Amanda. We have made real progress in this first report in establishing the representation of women on boards in the mining industry, which has raised some really interesting issues. So, if you would like to discuss any of this further, I would love to hear from you. Thank you.

Percentage of women on boards by territory

Exchange   Average % women on boards of top 100 mining companies
South Africa - JSE   21.05
Australia - ASX   11.97
USE - NYSE   7.34
Hong Kong - SEHK   6.02
Canada - TSX/TSXv   5.24
United Kingdom - LSE/AIM   4.27
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