In South Africa, legislative barriers prevented women from working underground until relatively recently. Apart from various legislation introduced in recent years to promote and ensure equity in the workplace, the South African Mining Charter specifically tries to redress this imbalance from the past by setting a target that women should make up 10% of mining companies’ total workforce by 2009.
AngloGold Ashanti has made progress, increasing the representation of women in the company’s workforce (expressed as a percentage of all South African-based employees, including foreign nationals) from 7% in 2005 to 9% in 2007. Jan Norval, Manager: Human Resources Development for the South African operations, comments that retention rates are encouraging, with labour turnover among female employees no higher than the average across the board.
“Our programme is not just about meeting the Charter targets,” says Norval. “AngloGold Ashanti strives to reflect the diversity of the communities among which it operates, and, ultimately, we would wish our employment demographics to reflect those of the country as a whole.”
At the outset, an effort was made into gaining an objective picture of its female employees’ attitudes and perceptions. Following an earlier audit in 2005 (See case study: Women in mining – uncovering the barriers: AngloGold Ashanti Report to Society: 2005), the company commissioned a follow-up study in February 2007, carried out by an independent researcher. In total 110 women, at all levels of employment, were interviewed in a combination of focus groups and one-on-one discussions.
“Both studies highlighted similar issues, largely focusing around infrastructural aspects such as the provision of facilities, or workplace issues such as perceived isolation and lack of support,” says Norval.
The infrastructural issues most commonly raised in the 2007 audit were shortages of:
Work-related issues included:
“While the 2007 audit shows some issues of concern have not changed, some encouraging progress has been made, for example with regard to sexual harassment,” says Norval. “Respondents at all business units indicated a perception that the company had made significant efforts in terms of awareness training on sexual harassment, and that this had gone a long way in creating a shared understanding between men and women regarding personal interaction in the workplace. This perception is borne out by the fact that the number of reported sexual harassment cases is declining.”
Norval also reports that virtually all respondents expressed their confidence that there is now no discrimination against women in terms of pay or conditions of employment; this was not the case in the previous survey.”
To date, 23 change houses have been made available, usually through the conversion of existing, redundant facilities; and clinic opening hours are being adjusted to provide accessibility at convenient times.
“Demand for child care facilities (an issue raised by some respondents) varies,” says Norval. “We recruit women exclusively from the communities surrounding the mines, and we mostly find they prefer to arrange child care through family members.” Two crèches have been established, one in Vaal River and one in West Wits.
Regarding such issues as perceived lack of support for women in the workplace, various women’s networking forums have been established.
At business unit level, if no formal women’s forum has been established, provision has been made for women to be represented on the various structures that feed into the skills development and employment equity committees.
Central forums have been established at West Wits and Vaal River to accommodate women working in the South Africa Region Services and Sustainable Development departments. Meetings of these forums are convened quarterly by Avril Harris, Human Resources Manager Business Services, in West Wits, and by Larissa la Grange, Senior Community and Social Development Officer, in Vaal River.
Meetings to date have been attended by between 40 and 60 women. Suggestions emanating from these meetings are routed through the relevant channels to try and resolve issues that may arise.
The greatest remaining challenge, in Norval’s view, is the persistent imbalance in gender distribution between surface and underground jobs. “Across the spectrum, whether you are looking at category 3-8 and artisan jobs, or at entry-level graduate and diplomate positions, you still find relatively few female applicants for jobs in the core technical disciplines. For example, of the 2,764 employees recruited at the category 3-8 level in 2007, 87% are male; the current bursar population is 50, 24% of whom are female.”
Overall, Norval is confident AngloGold Ashanti will meet the 10% target by 2009 – equating to some 3,100 employees – and continue making progress towards its broader objective of embracing cultural diversity through an employee profile that reflects South Africa’s social demographics.
Lizanne Maritz and Elizabeth Molefi are two women who have shown they can cope successfully with the challenges of the mining industry.
Lizanne (25) joined AngloGold Ashanti in November 2000 on a Learnership Programme, for a Level One Stope Artisan position. This is the entry-level for occupations into the artisan engineering programme.
Her technical high school background laid the foundations for a career in the mining industry. Through part-time study at the Carletonville Technical College and Klerksdorp Vuselela Technical College, she went on to achieve a N3 technical qualification and passed her trade test as an instrument technician in October 2005. She joined AngloGold Ashanti Training and Development services in January 2007 as an instrumentation training officer. “You must just believe in yourself,” she says. “Nothing is too hard if you have the right mindset and support.”
Her supervisor, Senior Training and Development Officer JT Ndebele, comments: “Lizanne is a dedicated individual with strong leadership qualities. She is still in the learning phase in her training role, but has already made an impact in the instrumentation department by suggesting a number of new systems. She is a valuable asset to ATDS and the company.”
Elizabeth (43) joined the company in 1989 as a clerk. She cites “personal ambition, and my aspiration to take my rightful place in life” as her reasons for choosing a career in the mining industry.
Elizabeth is married with two children. “As parents, we both look after the family, so I am blessed with a good support system,” she says.
Elizabeth was appointed to her current position of winding engine driver training officer in March 2005. JT Ndebele comments: “Elizabeth is dedicated and motivated. She has implemented a number of training systems and plays an important role in ensuring that everyone, especially historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs), has the opportunity to apply for winding engine driver positions. She has already trained a few female learners and they have all successfully completed the programme.”
Mponeng Mine has proved among the most successful of AngloGold Ashanti’s operations in integrating women into the workforce. This is borne out by comments made by respondents in the external audit carried out in 2007, of which the following extract is an example:
“The women at Mponeng were the most positive and satisfied of all women surveyed. The women highlighted that staff don’t want to leave Mponeng. The atmosphere is one of a family environment – ‘feels like home’. They feel that AngloGold Ashanti is moving towards accommodating the needs of women and are encouraged by the recruitment and selection of larger numbers of women.”
Senior Human Resources Manager, Peter Lombard, cites a number of initiatives as contributing to this success.
AngloGold Ashanti Annual Report 2007 – Report to Society