"Industry has growth opportunity in inclusion of more women"
Considering that South Africa’s economy is in a crisis state, gold miner Harmony Gold Mining Company’s newly appointed Financial Director Boipelo Lekubo. She says the inclusion of more women, in efforts to improve diversity and to attract and retain traditionally unrepresented groups, is an opportunity for growth.
In doing so, it could be an avenue to creating jobs and improving productivity, and therefore revenue, she tells Mining Weekly.
“By including more women, you have a wider talent pool, as women bring you different benefits in terms of different views, or approaches, towards how problems can be solved,” she comments, adding that it also has an impact on integrated thinking, while promoting a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda.
Women in South African mining currently only represent 12.4% of the industry.
Lekubo refers to a survey done in 2016 by investment bank Credit Suisse, wherein it said that companies with women in top management positions often showed “superior sales growth”, as well as higher cash flows and returns on investments, when compared with companies with all-male management.
However, while this speaks to investors’ requirements in terms of diversity, Lekubo warns that the mining sector’s history and legacy has put a wrench in the works, with the industry often perceived to be male-dominated, and not meant for women.
“We need to address this, and review the culture within operations themselves, so that this can change,” she says, adding that the challenge is often at a behavioural level.
Harmony has, to this effect, been proactive in trying to change the culture at the operational level, with its supervisors and people in leadership completing a Leadership Development Programme.
In its 2019 financial year, the dual-listed company rolled out a gender diversity strategy to improve women representation in its management. The strategy sets specific yearly targets for representation of women in management and has seen the company establish a universal salary scale, where men and women on the same management level earn the same amount.
Harmony has also been recognised in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index for two consecutive years. In the index, Harmony was praised for its disclosure in advancing women and their rights, promoting gender equality and diversity in the workplace.
“What makes [the company] unique is that it’s driven from the board level, where the board itself it very keen to see women representation. It’s not just a Mining Charter requirement,” Lekubo comments.
However, with the problem existing at not just operational, but at corporate levels too, Lekubo states that it is imperative for women in the mining industry to help drive change.
“Women in the industry need to continue being vocal, and need to do more,” she says.
While seminars, workshops and talks often take place, Lekubo is adamant that “men also need to be attending these”, instead of it being women only discussing the challenges that they face.
Having men – the other mining industry peers – present, aware and participating in discussions, could be the step-change required to drive change, she notes.
Additionally, Lekubo suggests that miners also look to talent management to identify, attract and retain strong potential female candidates for management positions; while also furthering workforce training and skills development, with a particular focus on the advancement of women.
“Training and development programmes have to be strategically aligned to enable females to acquire the necessary skills.”
While the South African mining industry offers opportunities for women to upskill themselves, Lekubo emphasises that women need to identify these, and “make it work” for themselves.
Meanwhile, turning to gold, Harmony has continued to remain highly leveraged to the rand gold price, and while it has been helpful, Lekubo believes the company’s assets have made Harmony’s success “much more special”.
When asked her view on the yellow mineral experiencing some volatility – like most other commodities right now – she noted that Harmony “remains very bullish on gold but remains focused on what it can control”.
“The safety of employees, and managing its costs and grades speak to this,” Lekubo says.
Harmony on April 20 said it was committed to the safe resumption of its nine underground operations that had been placed on care and maintenance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Care and maintenance at the underground mines during lockdown included the continued provision of water, power, security and operation of health hubs.
The company, headed by CEO Peter Steenkamp, has a medical hub at each of its mines, staffed by medical professionals and has at least one qualified doctor at each hub, supported by qualified nurses.
Full compliance with the requirements of the amended lockdown regulations, as announced on April 16, has been pledged.
As such, operations at the company’s underground mines will be at a reduced capacity of not more than 50% during the remainder of the lockdown period, which is currently due to end on April 30.