If women are to succeed and advance economically, businesses need to think beyond providing employment opportunities. Companies can support women in a variety of ways: by helping them gain the skills and resources they need to compete, helping them get fair and equal access to economic institutions, and helping them achieve the power and agency to benefit from these opportunities. Only then can women have the chance to control their own destiny.
With the support of a Hewlett Foundation grant, BSR recently completed a yearlong research project on how business—including the mining sector—can support women’s economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of this research, we developed 25 recommendations for mining companies to advance women’s economic empowerment based on BSR’s “Act, Enable, Influence” framework. This approach organizes company activities based on how they can act directly to support their employees, and what they can do indirectly to enable key stakeholders and influence the wider environment.
To understand what a successful approach looks like in practice, we sat down with a team from Newmont Mining. Beatrice Opoku-Asare, Newmont’s global director of inclusion and diversity, Adiki Ayitevie, senior director of communications and external relations in Ghana, and Boakyewaa Glover, senior manager of site human resources and operations in Ghana talked to us about how to combine corporate strategy, direct action, and a culture of inclusion to deliver tangible benefits that reach women who work at Newmont, as well as women in the supply chain and the communities around Newmont’s Ghanaian operations.
Opoku-Asare explained that the first step for any company should be a conscious strategy from head office that builds a culture of inclusion. This culture helps employees feel comfortable bringing their full self and unique skills to work, increasing motivation and driving business success. This focus on inclusion is also critical to engaging the whole organization, not just female employees. “We want to make sure that we get to a point where inclusion does not become a stand-alone item, but really is integrated into all of the work we are doing from a supply chain perspective, from a safety perspective, and just woven into the organization as a whole,” Opoku-Asare said.
Glover and Ayitevie added that this focus on inclusion can happen very deliberately at the local level. Newmont Ghana formed the Ahafo Women’s Consultative Committee (WCC) to enhance women’s participation in community decision-making. This strategy relates directly to the “Act” pillar of BSR’s framework. “Building inclusion and diversity does not happen by accident,” Glover explained. “It must be deliberate and proactive. Our formal strategy in the region is set in three-year blocks so we can be concise and concrete about what we want to achieve.”
Creating this supportive culture and strategy has encouraged ongoing dialogue about challenges and solutions at Newmont, and the company has used these discussions to focus on programs organized according to three pillars: workforce, workplace, and community.
For the workforce pillar, Newmont focuses on goals and metrics that include gender targets as well as targets for hiring Ghanaian nationals and “local-local” women—women from the communities close to its mining sites. The company has found that its three-year targets help set direction and give the company a better understanding of progress. Since 2013, board diversity has improved, as has national representation on the leadership teams in both Ghana and Peru.
When it began to focus on inclusion and diversity, Newmont leaders quickly understood that setting goals and metrics in a vacuum would not create success over the longer term. “You can have a diverse team, but if you don’t leverage your team appropriately, or if team members don’t feel enabled and supported, you are not really getting what you need to get, so the effort is to create a more inclusive culture,” Glover explained.
To address culture change, Newmont’s workplace pillar focuses on employee engagement and programs to train leaders to understand and address unconscious biases. Newmont also created Women and Allies Business Resource Groups, which work to empower women and advocate for more inclusive workplaces. These efforts have resulted in a number of initiatives that bring direct, visible benefits to women. For example, Newmont has established breastfeeding facilities at its Ahafo mine site in Ghana, and the company has plans to provide similar facilities at other sites.
Newmont’s community pillar focuses on women in the wider community. For instance, Newmont works with the Ghana Institute of Engineers to mentor girls in the Ashanti region, and the company supports a career-development program with the University of Mines and Technology for female engineering students. Newmont’s Ghanaian team also volunteers to teach reading in local schools.
Newmont’s work shows that a successful women’s empowerment strategy for business requires a meaningful commitment from the top, clear goals and metrics, and direct action that delivers substantive benefits to women. Taking a holistic approach requires thought, planning, and integration across the organization, but each effort reinforces the other and generates momentum over time, ultimately resulting in transformative culture change.
To begin a conversation in your company about inclusion and women’s empowerment, read our Mining Industry Brief on how this sector can support women’s economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.