To be a woman in mining when copper runs through your veins

In a field of work mostly dominated by men, women are trying more and more to open up space through hard, well-earned work, dedication and, many times, with twice the effort of our peers in order to demonstrate we have the same professional capacities than our workmates. Though gaps have been closing, there is still a lot to do and regulate before we reach a real measure of equality between men and women, both in mining... and in life.

Ever since I can remember, I have always been part of the mining world. I was born and grew up in the Chuquicamata mining camp, so working in the industry was a “genetically” induced opportunity.

I was raised surrounded by the mining culture, where it was not difficult to see how this world was predominantly formed by men. Back then, there was very little room for female participation, and even less possibilities to stand out in any of the functions related to this field of work.

Though times and statistics have improved over the years in favor of women, in my 30 years of experience in the sector, I have always seen female employment figures somewhat weak.

According to the Chilean Chapter of Women in Mining, as of 2016, only 7.7% of the mining work force is made up by women. The figure matches the information provided by the Ministry of Mining, and is considered low compared to the 17% and 19% registered in countries such as Canada and Australia, respectively.

However, just like with everything else, there are exceptions to this rule. Such is the case with the Gabriela Mistral Division of Codelco, whose work force is now 22% female. On the other hand, ONU Women continues to make its best effort to create awareness and promote the creation of more and better opportunities, transforming women’s work in favor of their rights.

At Arcadis, where I lead the Infrastructure and Mining Business Management, we are committed to improve the gender balance within our workforce, and to support and encourage the active participation of women in our projects. This is how, in the case of Chile, 29% of employees in the area that I lead are women, followed by 25% in Technical Management and an outstanding 44% for the Environmental and Water Resources Management area.

Another way to show our potential as workers in the company is through the Women@Arcadis platform in LinkedIn, where we profile women whose work in their different areas of expertise have made them stand out as part of the teams working in the four continents where we offer our consulting services.

I have also learnt that technical competence is not enough. Women contribute perspectives different from the “traditional” ones when developing projects and in mining. Our transversal, integrating and long term view, as well as our capacity for multitasking, is a big ally to face the demands of work and the inescapable demands from our homes.

Micaela Barrientos

BU leader Mining & Infrastructure - Chile Ask me a question