The mining industry has always been heavily male dominated, and stereotypes have persisted. However, the importance of gender diversification is becoming clear and changing the narrative around women in mining is essential. Prisma Training Solutions is playing a vital role in this shift, having 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. 

“There is still a belief that women are not strong enough to perform some jobs, underpinned by patriarchal attitudes and bias against women, who are frequently judged on their gender and not their actual job performance. An ongoing perception persists that women are physically incapable of many of the technical or more physical roles in mining, so they have typically women 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 tasks 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 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 Carol. 

Changing the narrative

Although 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, thus they must work harder and sometimes sacrifice their femininity to be taken seriously. We need to change both the narrative and the mindset around women in the mining industry. 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, which is the key to true gender equality,” Carol concludes.

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