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Why is mentorship critical to the mining industry?

December 15, 2021

By Jennifer Berger and Karvin Kwan

International Women in Mining’s mentoring program is creating a more diverse and inclusive industry

The mining and engineering industries have long had a reputation as male-dominated fields lacking diversity. Historically, women have made up anywhere from 10% to 15% of the total workforce in the mining industry. Mentorship is an essential tool in addressing this stereotype and helping more diverse perspectives find a home in mining engineering.

Our Company’s mining team recently sponsored the International Women in Mining (IWiM) mentoring program. The 2021 program matched 70 women across the resource industry for six-month-long mentorship partnerships. The program includes one-on-one mentorship sessions, helpful tools, discussions on career advancement, and the chance to connect with industry leaders and peers.

This program is creating opportunities for women already in the industry and clearing a path to make the industry more hospitable for the next generation. We are both currently in the program and have a few key takeaways on the importance of mentorship. 

Historically, women have made up anywhere from 10% to 15% of the total workforce in the mining industry. Mentorship is an essential tool in addressing this stereotype and helping more diverse perspectives find a home in mining engineering.

Building diverse connections

One of the greatest aspects of joining the 2021 IWiM mentorship program is connecting to a network of amazing women from across 20 different countries. The group is diverse on multiple fronts. Professionally, the women come from multiple perspectives—from women in operational, administrative, financial, or technical roles, to leadership positions. There is also a diversity of cultures and women in different stages of their careers and lives. This exposure to different perspectives and cultures helps us reduce barriers, enrich discussions, gain a wider view of the world, and work more effectively in a global industry.

An official mentoring program has also provided useful skills like learning how to nurture and build connections with new people based on our shared experiences, both with the 2021 IWiM group and with our mentors. One early lesson we received is that, when you work across cultures, clarity and understanding are key. This involves making sure your main ideas are expressed clearly and have been absorbed easily. Understanding how trust may be built in other parts of the world is also beneficial. A large part of working in mining requires relationship building across the globe, and the IWiM experience is truly a reflection of that.

The industry can only change if we all take an active role in building a more diverse and inclusive work environment.

Finding your purpose

Making a commitment to focus on personal development has been energizing. The daily pressures in our professional and personal lives often leave us with little time for ourselves. And this has become even more challenging while we have also been navigating a global pandemic.

Taking the time to focus on personal development and career goals has allowed both of us to reflect on our values and core motivations. Finding purpose leads to a focus of energy and actions that can be applied to our work. Freedom happens when you are able to say 'yes' with intent!

The daily pressures in our professional and personal lives often leave us with little time for ourselves. And this has become even more challenging while we have also been navigating a global pandemic.

Unlocking the leader within yourself

Connecting with the most extraordinary leaders in our industry is incredible. Our mentors are senior professionals who are invested in developing the next generation of mining leaders. They offer unique perspectives, ask thought-provoking questions, and provide invaluable feedback. 

The relationships we build cultivate a mindset of growth. They have helped us understand our perceived limitations and have challenged us to think strategically about our careers. And this is one of the main goals of the program: Empowering women to navigate industry challenges and to make their marks in the resource industry. Ultimately, this unlocks another resource of potential future leaders—maybe even you!

Paying it forward

What we learn can be shared with our colleagues, both at Stantec and in professional organizations. This gives us the chance to pay it forward to the next mining generation. And that's exciting to be able to help others grow.

No matter what stage of your career you are in, you can be a mentor and mentee. Here are a few tips that apply to everyone:

The industry can only change if we all take an active role in building a more diverse and inclusive work environment. Mentorship is the critical first step, and you can get involved at any point in your career. Whether mentor or mentee, it’s in your hands to lead us into the future!

  • Jennifer Berger

    A senior principal in our Mining group, Jennifer specializes in delivering safe production, process improvements, financial forecasting, establishing metrics, and monitoring key performance indicators.

    Contact Jennifer
  • Karvin Kwan

    Karvin manages our geotechnical group in Vancouver, British Columbia and has been involved in major mining-related projects including feasibility and detailed design for tailings, earth dams, waste rock pile, and pit walls.

    Contact Karvin
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