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What’s mining got to do with gender equity? RMIT-led study has the answer

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What can mining do for women?

Traditionally, mining has been considered a masculine industry by virtue of its heavily male dominated workforce and the physicality of work. Women who gain employment at the mine are often treated with ‘condescending chivalry’ or treated as a novelty.

Think again, suggests a recent research led by RMIT.

Researchers found that mining multinational corporation promote gender equity in host countries in several different ways.

The study – whose geographical focus included Laos and Thailand, countries whose cultures promote the concept of gender equity – found “positive outcomes” among mining MNC activities for women on the quality of their well-being. Among them were increased access to education and travel, benefits of infrastructure, access to transportation, which can provide access to new markets, and better economic status for women.

More importantly, men and women can be equally employed in various departments in the mining industry, the study says.

The study’s findings bear important lessons for the future of mining and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Firstly, it should bury cynics who believe CSR is only a way for mining MNCs to promote new products and features. Grassroots research suggests CSR is beneficial to MNCs that integrate it into their everyday practices, and meaningful for different groups and communities.

Secondly, sustainable development has been the prime goal of most CSR programmes, even though questions have been raised about the effectiveness and ability of mining MNCs to meet that goal. The recent research, at the least, suggests MNCs should review their CSR goals.

Mining MNCs that focus their CSR on promoting gender equity have gained a measure of success. These, typically, help remove structural barriers, help skills development, governance and gender-based promotion. It clearly shows that businesses can promote gender equity and empower women in the workplace, if they aim for long-term benefits for all stakeholders.

For the study, RMIT partnered with Nossal Institute for Global Health, National University of Laos and Thammasat University, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Dr. Nattavud Pimpa is an associate professor in international business at RMIT University, Australia. Write to him here.

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