The mining sector is still dominated by men. Increasingly, there are more women working in mining camps. However, as Andrew, a camp manager, puts it, “The camp and the work places have still a strong ‘testosterone culture’, which is not appealing to all people. Some men even find it annoying too.” A certain male way of talking can make the situation for women uncomfortable. But most male workers are not only comfortable with more females in the camp on a personal level, they also feel that the overall atmosphere in the crew is better, as yelling and coarse language is reduced when there are more women employed.
Women are increasingly hired in a variety of professions. This results from increased training and education in the mining field.
Today women work as geologists, environmental engineers, heavy vehicle operators, hauler drivers, mechanics, welders, electricians, first aid responders, safety managers and environmental engineers. They are administrators, cooks, cleaning personnel and service managers for camps. In short, all professions are open to females today.
However, there is still a disproportionate number of women who are employed in entry-level, low paying jobs such as site maintenance and kitchen staff.
In addition to the availability of jobs for women, other sorts of discrimination can still occur. There is certainly some improvement in comparison to the previous generation, but some women report that they have to show much more ambition than their male co-workers and have to prove their qualification in front of the male peers.
Sydel, an electrician, explains that “especially in the beginning it was really annoying that the males talked behind my back, and asserting that ‘this is not a job for a woman’. They considered me as less qualified, although I had all my tickets and was even better qualified than many of my male colleagues. It is important not to get stressed out about other people’s opinions. It is your job - be confident that you do it well.”
When it comes to cases of sexual harassment, some women are not sure how to deal with it. However, such situations are not the rule, as Francis, a truck driver, asserts, “Being a woman in a male peer group is not a big deal. We are treated respectfully and sexual harassment is really the exception. Well, it depends on the size of the camp and the general atmosphere.”
It is important to know that one is protected by the laws and rules of the company. Sexual, racial and other discrimination at the workplace is against human rights.
Moreover, supervisors are there to help. Jessica, a young geologist says, “You have the power to speak up. Go tell your supervisor or the human resources
people if you are not feeling comfortable with someone’s behaviour.”
Often unpleasant situations are not upfront harassment. Discrimination is sometimes much subtler.
It is not always easy to judge certain behaviour; there is a fine line, it might be just comradery. So how to deal with such situations?
Marilyn, a cleaning person puts it like this, “Be upfront. Talk to the guy who is behaving in a weird way. Often there are only a few weird guys who do not know how to behave. The others will support you. Just be upfront. Sometimes it turns out the person wasn’t trying to harass you. Do not hesitate, do not be ashamed. Remember: nobody has the right to put you in an unpleasant situation.”
Francis, who has been working in mines for a long time, asserts, “It is a tricky situation. On the one hand you should be yourself and on the other hand you have to adapt to a certain extent to the male environment. They are simply the majority.” However, this is no reason at all to accept unpleasant situations, should they occur.
When it comes to a career in mining, there are women´s organizations like Yukon Women in Mining that can help and provide information on how to get into the sector.
They promote awareness of the opportunities for rewarding careers for women in the mining industry. They develop initiatives that foster personal and professional development, through awareness, education and networking opportunities. Friends or relatives who are working in a mine are also good sources of information about your options.
I did my certificates and I am as qualified as any other man. I can maintain heavy machinery without any problem. Times have changed, thank god. Melinda
There needs to be more advertisement and information for women in mining. The young girls should learn also in school about the cool opportunities you have in this field! Tamara
No doubt, we need to prove every day that we can do our job. This is double standard and discrimination too. Women, therefore, are often even better than male colleagues. It will take some time, I hope not a full generation, until women are accepted in the same way as men. Tiffany
I like that there are more and more women joining us. I also find this masculine stuff often annoying. Men work hard and play hard. Women have a more balanced attitude and this makes the whole atmosphere better. James
I had a few incidences of sexual harassment myself, but I tend to be outspoken and not very shy. So I dealt with them pretty well. I told those people straight to their face that their behaviour is not appropriate and if I wanted to I could get them kicked out of here. Veronica
I tended to keep away from those things. You know people knew that I wasn’t the girl for just a night - if that is what you are looking for. So yeah, it was good. Marilyn