Mining The Field An account of the realities of being a woman in the Mining Industry

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A couple of weeks back, we profiled three women with careers in Construction – a traditionally male-dominated field. This week we introduce you to Prudence Ramabulana, a wonderful lady currently making her mark in the Gold mining industry. With Gold arguably being South Africa’s biggest commodity, finding out how women in the field contribute greatly to SA’s economy, while setting themselves apart in the industry was of particular interest to us. Continue reading below as Prudence shares an honest account of the highlights and pitfalls of her career…

Interviewer: Zimasa Qolohle Mabuse


Prudence, you presently have careers in Gold mining. Could you take us through the journey of choosing this career field? Was mining always a dream or career path that you knew you would follow, or was it thrust upon you?

I always knew that I wanted to venture into the engineering field- civil engineering was initially my first choice but along the way I fell in love with mining engineering after an influence from my uncle who is a mining engineer himself.

 

As someone with a career in critical minerals, do you feel you are making a direct contribution to South Africa’s economy?

Of course, gold contributes directly to the GDP hence I feel that I am making direct impact to the country’s GDP.

 

 Let’s talk serious stuff shall we? Just how easy or difficult is it for women to make a success of themselves in the mining industry? Are your rights as women respected? Explain the advantages & pitfalls of your industry from the perspective of a woman.

It is not at all easy, we are always perceived as threats on top of being perceived as not being tough enough to run mines. With the government trying to implement gender equality, I am still waiting for the “equality”. To top it all, victimization is a sad reality in our industry and once you are progressing as a woman in the industry, people always think you had an affair with someone to get to the top.

Rights respected? The answer is yes and no. At some level there are people who genuinely respect us as women in the mining industry, but majority still see us just as objects so, it  is not easy to be relevant at what is perceived  “a man’s world”.

Advantages- waking up to different conditions that bring new challenges every day is exciting. The everyday challenges keep me on my feet with my thinking cap on 24/7 and to me that is like a dose of medication. I can’t imagine my life going to a formal working place every day, sitting at an office and being told what to do. I run my own show, and that drives me to work even harder and be part of the whole transformation of the industry.

Pitfalls – There is still a huge gap due to the lack of female senior managers. I always feel like the mines were never designed with a woman in mind, from the change houses, lack of proper abolishing facilities underground (hygiene facilities) to poorly structured maternity benefits, abnormal working hours (which affect family life), women safety issues , PPE one piece male body designed overalls that we must wear.


How is career success and personal development ensured in this career sphere? Is growth or success determined by your projects, or does the subjective view of your manager still play a role?

Fortunately I am part of a company that focuses on personal development; there are endless opportunities for continuous development. Growth is determined by both the project success and the managers.

 

How have you experienced treatment from your male colleagues?

Shortly after joining the industry I realized that sometimes I would be excluded in certain activities due to my gender. After they realized that I am capable of achieving what is expected of me they slowly started treating me as an equal rather than just a ‘gender’.

 

What advice do you have for women in the mining industry who wish to empower themselves?

There are benefits in self- empowerment, you earn somethings that nobody can take away from you and the industry is still short of women leaders. It is important to be part of our organizations; join WIM, mentorship programmes in organizations like SAIMM and learn from people who are already in industry because nothing really prepares you for the realities of the industry.

 

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