Case Study: Prisma helps change the narrative on gender bias in the mining sector

The mining industry has always been heavily male dominated, and stereotypes have persisted. However, many studies now show that diverse workforces are inherently more successful in today’s world. The importance of gender diversification is becoming clear and changing the narrative around women in mining is an essential component of this. Prisma Training Solutions is proud to be playing a vital role in this shift, and most recently completed training of an all-women group of 14 individuals, who were taught and licensed to drive Komatsu HD785 dump trucks, a skill that has traditionally been the sole domain of male workers.

Challenges of a legacy
South Africa’s history is littered with inequality, and the legacy of the mining industry highlights the disparity between men and women. In the past, gender roles were assigned such that men went off to work and women stayed at home to tend to the house and the children. However, this has shifted dramatically, and women are increasingly playing important roles in many workplaces, mining included. The challenge is that pre-existing stereotypes persist. There is still a belief that women are not strong enough to perform some jobs, as well as patriarchal attitudes and bias against women, who are frequently judged on their gender and not their actual job performance.

“There is an ongoing perception that women are physically incapable of many of the technical or more physical roles in mining, and typically women in the mining industry have thus been assigned softer roles like cleaning, administrative and office-based roles. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that women are not only capable of performing jobs that were considered men’s jobs, but that they bring a whole new perspective to the roles that can be immensely valuable,” says Carol Brandt, Metallurgy Training Manager at Prisma.

Steps in the right direction
As part of its skills development initiatives, a mine in Springbok in the Northern Cape nominated 14 existing female employees for training on the Komatsu dump trucks. Not only was this an unusual request in that all the individuals to be upskilled were women, with the trainer being a woman too, but it was also notable because the role of dump truck driver is another one that is traditionally assigned to men. The trucks are large and heavy and require significant skill to operate. The training includes psychometric testing to judge reaction time and visual acuity, as well as theory and practical applications.

“All 14 women successfully completed the assessments and training, and the sense of pride when they were found competent to drive these machines was a highlight of the initiative. This training showcases to the industry that women are more than capable of performing jobs that have long been considered out of their scope and is another step forward in addressing ongoing gender bias in the mining industry,” says Brandt.

Changing the narrative
Gender bias continues to be a challenge in the mining industry in general, but there are more and more women paving the way by taking on traditionally male roles, including that of driving dump trucks. Despite this, women face an uphill battle. Prisma Training Solutions supports women in mining through community skills development, theory, practical experience, mentorship, and coaching, and by helping mines themselves to put the right systems into place to support gender equality.

“Women are often judged on their gender rather than their actual ability and must work harder and often sacrifice their femininity to be taken seriously. We need to change both the narrative and the mindset around women in the mining industry, and this is an ongoing process. Women have many positives to contribute and can add diversity and innovation into an industry that risks becoming stale and outdated. They should be empowered to do this without changing who they are at the core, and this is the key to true gender equality. Prisma Training Solutions is proud to be playing a role in achieving this,” Brandt concludes.