Mining the Future: 5 Questions With Elena Mayer of Women Who Rock

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Women Who Rock Carolyn Ray Elena Mayer

Canada’s Women Who Rock (WWR) is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting and empowering dynamic women as they develop their careers in the mining industry. On June 8 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, WWR partnered with the Canadian Art and Fashion Awards, an organization fostering and helping the next generation of Canadian designers, to support Canadian brands and create a positive image and boost public awareness of mining outside of the industry context by exposing it to the fashion industry.

If this week’s gala event, which included a fashion show and networking, was any indication, a broad spectrum of leaders in mining and other industries are showing their growing commitment to gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Carolyn Ray, Interbrand Canada’s Managing Director, attended the event and spoke with WWR President and Founder Elena Mayer about the challenges facing women in the mining sector.

CR: Elena, why does the mining industry need more women?

EM: Increasing the representation of women in the sector will provide a solution for skilled worker shortages through access to a larger talent pool. As the sector becomes increasingly complex, technical skills and strong grasp of the underlying business drivers are necessary, but no longer sufficient. It is the understanding of cultural, political and social realities of host countries—as well as collaborations with local governments and communities—that often determines the success of projects.

Those who possess collaboration, teamwork, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills, traits typically found in women, are well-positioned to play a key role in bridging the inevitable gaps between the needs of all stakeholders. Lastly, inclusion of women at all levels of an organization, including senior management, has been linked to stronger financial performance, improved governance and overall higher organizational performance.

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CR: How is Women Who Rock looking to change the balance?

EM: WWR is comprised of people committed to change. Our board of advisors (both female and male) aspires to become a moving force that ignites curiosity and attracts more dynamic women to our sector. We’re supporting women by creating a sense of community and solidarity. WWR also promotes women by providing mentorship and sharing ideas and opportunities. Our vision and passion have been the driving force behind founding and moving the organization forward.

CR: How can the mining industry attract and promote more women?

EM: Perhaps the most important ingredient of how to affect change for gender diversity in mining is direct and continuous involvement from those who are in position of power. Introducing awards and scholarships; creating in-house programs; communicating best practices; and supporting industry organizations are just some of the ways mining leaders can contribute to attracting, retaining and empowering women.

To attract the millennial generation, we also believe that mining companies have an opportunity to share the good things they are doing to show that the work serves a larger purpose. With a strong brand, organizations can be more proactive about recruitment and show the good they are doing, and close the gap between perception and actual performance.

Women Who Rock

CR: How does partnering with the Canadian fashion industry will help change the perception of mining?

EM: Our Hard Hats and High Heels event is a partnership with the Canadian Art and Fashion Awards (CAFA), an organization that is fostering and helping the next generation of Canadian designers to grow and gain awareness of Canadian brands. We had around 300 people attend the event this year, and our goal was to take mining outside of its strict industry context by exposing it to the fashion industry. It brings together Canadian designers, makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion personalities and non-mining media, providing learning opportunities between the sectors as well as highlighting the topic of women in mining.

CR: The mining industry is currently in a down cycle and mining companies are feeling the pinch. How to convince companies to invest in women?

EM: A down cycle is not an obstacle, but an opportunity to direct our energy, time and scarce resources in activities that attract the best and the brightest from various disciplines who will in turn share their knowledge and find creative ways to shake our industry into the 22nd century. If the industry truly believes in the “why” of gender diversity, the “how” and “what” is a matter of creativity and imagination and the sky is the limit.

Mining leaders, educators and industry organizations are all equally responsible for fostering meaningful and positive change. Women Who Rock views itself as an integral part of the industry’s efforts to attract, support and empower women in mining and bring about this change.

CR: What is the role of brand in the mining industry, and how can a strong brand help women in this sector?

EM: In the mining sector specifically, a strong brand is important to build awareness and enhance reputation. There is recognition that what has worked in the past will not work in the future, so we need more creative and value-oriented ways of bringing the issue of talent and brand together.


Photo at top (from left to right): Elena Mayer, President and Founder, Women Who Rock and Client Relationship Senior Manager, PwC Canada; Carolyn Ray, Managing Director, Interbrand Canada; Claudia Mueller, Executive Director, Women Who Rock and Associate Director Global Mining Management, Schulich School of Business. To learn more about Women Who Rock, connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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