Elaina Ware Spotlight: How to navigate being a woman in the mining industry
Elaina Ware, Vice President of Operations Transformation – Vision Zero at Newmont, shares her experience having a career in the mining industry, the challenges she faced and the lessons learned along the way.
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Q: What attracted you to work in the mining industry?
From a young age, I was drawn to maths and science. My father was an electrical engineer, so choosing an engineering school for university seemed natural. Selecting a major during my freshman year became more of a practical decision.
I liked the idea of working in a field that combined nature and people, but environmental engineering didn’t have good job prospects in the late 1990s. The Mining Engineering department at the University of Missouri – Rolla touted a 100% job placement rate with the additional benefit of scholarships. After my first internship in mining at an underground coal mine, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the industry for me.
After my first internship in mining at an underground coal mine, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the industry for me
Q. How has the mining industry adapted to women moving into senior positions over the years?
There has been tremendous change in the industry to support a more diverse workforce at every level. Early in my career, I was commonly the token female in important meetings or presentations. Today, it’s much more common to have several women present, and occasionally the women actually outnumber the men.
Much of the work has come on the backs of women before me, paving the way by speaking up when they could, and for that, I’m so grateful. It’s also important to acknowledge the men that have been advocates along the way, challenging hypermasculinity and allowing the space for women to sit at the table beside them.
It’s also important to acknowledge the men that have been advocates along the way, challenging hypermasculinity and allowing the space for women to sit at the table beside them
Q. What type of discrimination do women face in the mining industry?
Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains prevalent in the mining industry, and many others. I’ve experienced blatant sexual harassment myself and understand the reasons why it is so difficult to speak up about it.
When an individual doesn’t have confidence in how situations will be investigated, that lack of trust leads to doubt and fear. It is well known that fear is an extremely strong emotion. Layering on additional responsibilities, such as being a single mother of young children and the sole breadwinner, everything becomes tied to your job and the risk is just too great to speak up.
Being a single mother of young children and the sole breadwinner, everything becomes tied to your job and the risk is just too great to speak up
I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have the courage before; I’ve grown more confident and the industry has changed, and I absolutely would speak up for myself and others now.
Q. Is there an example you could think of where your gender has left you at a disadvantage in the workplace?
As the mother of four children, my choice to become a parent largely depended physiologically on me as a woman. During my pregnancies and maternity leaves (which in the US were extremely short), I was often overlooked for promotions or bypassed for raises because I was out-of-sight out-of-mind, or seen as not fully committed to the job. This bias towards mothers in the workplace was especially challenging as fathers were often praised for taking time off work with their children.
During my pregnancies and maternity leaves, I was often overlooked for promotions or bypassed for raises because I was out-of-sight out-of-mind, or seen as not fully committed to the job
Q. Has it been difficult to reach your position in the mining industry?
I have worked extremely hard to become an executive in the mining industry. I’ve been tough as I gritted my teeth through blatant sexism, hostility, and sexual harassment. I’ve been adaptable as a pregnant haul truck driver that had to learn how to make quick bathroom breaks to not miss a haul cycle.
I’ve been polite as I congratulated the men that got the promotion I missed. I’ve been sad as I fought through postpartum depression while pumping breastmilk at work and getting criticised for taking extra breaks. More than anything else, I’ve been determined to overcome obstacles and create pathways for success for other women in the mining industry.
More than anything else, I’ve been determined to overcome obstacles and create pathways for success for other women in the mining industry
Q. Can you think of one thing you'd do differently in your career?
I wish that I would’ve pushed back harder on things that I knew were wrong.
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