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Women driving change in mining

by Media Xpose

The mining industry continues to be a key driver of the economy, and women are leading the change within the sector. Meet three inspiration leaders who are game-changers in the sector.

Tarryn Flitton

Vice President: Resource and Reserve, AngloGold Ashanti

Tarryn Flitton has over 20 years’ career experience in the mining industry and qualifications in Geology and Geotstatistics. She has 10 years direct corporate experience, which led to leading and managing governance aspects of resource and reserve estimation and for the company’s global operations and projects.

What are the highlights of your role?

The highlights of my role include gaining knowledge and experience in public reporting under the leadership of my mentor, and now also taking on the opportunity to lead this function going forward.

What attributes make you successful in your position?

I believe attributes that have made me successful in my position are my ability to effectively communicate as well as having excellent organisational, analytical, and interpersonal skills.

What challenges do you face as a woman in the mining industry? 

The main challenge I face has always been about being recognised as a professional and acknowledged for my technical ability and the job that I do, rather than the contribution I make because I am a woman.

It is difficult, however, to have people recognise this when women are in the minority and not adequately represented at all levels in the organisation. I find that being open, honest, and courageous in starting these conversations is key to us addressing underlying issues.

Sharing our challenges we as women face so that people can learn and grow through our shared experiences, helps us be more aware and create an inclusive environment for others going forward.

What do you believe women can bring to the mining industry?

Women bring different ideas and a new way of thinking to the mining sector, which can spur creativity and innovative ways of working. Diversity and inclusion allow other voices to be heard and this leads to greater insight, influence, and impact.

We need to move from an inflexible culture to one of integration and inclusion and we need our leadership to set this example and be intentional with the narrative and challenge the status quo.

Women need to support each other by mentoring and coaching each other into these roles, by assisting with overcoming the unconscious bias and build better versions of us that allows women to be stronger and stand up to challenges and prejudices.

Women should pursue a career in mining as there are so many more opportunities now than ever before to make a difference. Technology, innovation, and automation have eased impediments women might have been confronted in the past and are no longer being excluded. The industry is recognising the value of women and what they bring to the table to build a sustainable mining industry we can all thrive in.

Mogaleadi Seabela

Mining Engineer, Anglo American Kumba Iron Ore

Mogaleadi Seabela is a multi-award-winning mining engineer. She began her career as a graduate-in-training and currently works as a Section Manager at Anglo American Kumba Iron Ore.

What are the highlights of your role?

Running safe and cost-effective sections which include managing contractors. Safety is my top priority and running without a recordable injury since I joined the company in 2019 is a significant milestone that I recognise without celebrating – because not injuring people is not an achievement but what I stand for as a leader.

What attributes make you successful in your position?

Being a team leader as well as a team player and knowing when to play which role. I am tactical in my approach to problem-solving and always strive to empower my teams to solve problems and perform at their optimum. I am a collaborator and can work with different people and that is an invaluable skill in the diverse world of mining.

What are some of the challenges for women in the mining sector and how have you overcome this? 

  • Resistance to mindset change and bias, regardless of the change we are seeing and the opportunities of creating an inclusive industry.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and working hours that do no accommodate mothers.
  • Insufficient representation of women in core mining roles to serve as mentors/coaches for up-and-coming women (this is also important for attraction and retention of WiM).

Overcoming my own self-limiting thinking and learning, I broke out of self-entitlement and victim mentality and worked on my career. I was supported by my peers, mentors who shared experiences and guidance and creating networks.

I have also been working on personal development to prepare for future opportunities. I continually challenge beliefs and biases that I have about myself and other people, especially women, which might be limiting to the development and empowerment of women and the creation of an inclusive mining industry.

What difference do women bring to the mining sector?

They bring a diversity of ideas and solutions. The mining sector has a strong history of monotony and slowness to change, and women are one of the greatest changes the sector has experienced, and they bring with them different ways of working and thinking. They are more collaborative, empathetic and resilient (by nature) and these traits are essential to innovation, agility and adaptability.

From a transformation perspective, how do you see yourself impacting proactive change for future female leaders in mining?

As a change agent and a disruptor. I do this in my role as a WiM committee chairperson for Sishen Mine and a mentor in various platforms including WiMSA. I encourage younger women to take up careers in mining and inspire those in the industry in the manner I do my work. More women should enter the industry because it is a fulfilling career with vast opportunities. My goal is to become a global thought-leader in mining.

Nandipha Ziphethe

General Manager, Contract Mining at Seriti Resources

Nandipha Ziphethe is a mother of two, and a Chemical Engineer with 20 years’ work experience. Her journey started in 2002, as a trainee metallurgist, and moved through the ranks in coal mining operational and project management roles. In 2016, she was appointed General Manager for Contract Mining at Seriti Resources.

What are the highlights of your role?

My role is new to the portfolio of the company I work for, therefore providing opportunity for me to be a path finder and to define the operating model.

What attributes make you successful in your position?  

I am a collaborator; resilient and adaptable. Grounded in strong business acumen, with a strategic and logical mindset, I am also action orientation, influential and a good negotiator.

Challenges that face women in mining include juggling between your career progression and your personal life. There is also the fight for equal recognition of women and their rights.  At work, these ideals are promoted, however at home and in society are not always embraced. There are also limited social support systems for single women, single parents and other primary care givers.

It is important to form bonds of friendship beyond work so you can become each other’s support system, especially if your own family is far away or estranged. My kids have a second grandmother in Witbank whom I met when I was a graduate.

What difference do women bring to the mining sector?

The world of work is shifting from transactional to transformational leadership.  Force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition and nurturing in which women are stronger are becoming the attributes to attain full economic and social development. If mining is the engine driving our economy, we cannot leave women behind if we want to thrive. Women bring about balance in masculine and feminine elements which are both necessary for sustainability. 

In my decision-making, creating an enabling environment for women to thrive. By mentoring, coaching and learning, and by engaging and encouraging personal development and being of service to others.

Any career that emancipates the station of women should be pursued. Mining drives our economy and technological innovation, much more now with the ESG value proposition.  Women must be at the forefront as we change the course of history and the narrative of mining in our country. 

My future goals are to complete executive leadership training and become the CEO of a company

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