• Diana M. Benz, Ph.D.

Gender Diversity in British Columbia Junior Mineral Exploration Management: A 2019 checkup

2018 was considered the Year of the Women. There was a record surge number of women elected to congress in the US (36 new house members joined 66 re-elected incumbents for a total 102 out of 435 House seats - the largest in US history and it also saw the greatest retirement numbers since 1992 ... also a Year of the Women), the "motherhood penalty" was brought to light in a number of studies, the #MeToo movement gained significant traction, transparency entered the workplace in some nations to highlight the gender pay gap and some countries celebrated 100 years of women's right to vote.




Where does the mineral sector in Canada stand?

According to PDAC's Gender Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide for Explorers, women account for 16 % of the mineral sector workforce while representing half of the total workforce in Canada. World-wide, PDAC estimated that 5 % to 10 % of the mining workforce are women.


Why is gender diversity and inclusion important?

Simply put, we potentially waste the talent and expertise of ~50% of our workforce solely based on gender biases.


Where do the junior companies operating in BC and YT stand?

A little about the survey: data was captured between March 25th and June 7th, 2019 based primarily on publicly-traded junior to mid-tier exploration companies reporting exploration activity within BC and/or YT through SEDAR within the past year. Only companies with active websites or listings describing board and management members were documented. Gender was determined by the use of descriptors such as Mr. or Ms., he or she and his or hers in their biography. In cases where gender could not be determined from the company website, other websites relating to the person were researched for words relating to gender (i.e., photos were not a determining factor for gender). Geologists were loosely defined as geologist, prospector, mining/chemical engineers and geographers. The file link is the data used to calculate the percentages below.

Note that there is some cross-over of positions held in both a leadership and director role (e.g., President and Director) for both men and women as well as cross-over between companies so the numbers may be lower when unique individuals are considered. From a total of 187 companies there were 712 leadership positions (C-suite, President, Vice President, etc.) and 862 Directors.


Number of women in leadership positions

122 out of 712 (or 17% of the total leadership)


Total number of geologists in leadership positions

112 out of 712 (or 16% of the total leadership)


Number of women geologists in leadership positions

22 out of 112 (or 20% of the total geologists in leadership positions)


Total number of women directors

65 out of 862 (or 8% of the total directorship)


Total number of directors with a geological background

345 out of 862 (or 40% of the total directors)


Number of women directors with a geological background

20 out of 345 (or 6% of the total directors with a geology background)


Total number of women in a geological advisory role

15 out of 160 (or 9% of total geological advisory roles)



To put this in perspective, imagine you are at a conference and there are two rooms. Each room is full of ~800 people. One room contains people in a leadership position working for BC-YT mineral exploration, whereas the other room is full of the directors. When someone takes a bird's-eye picture of each room are you going to be able to find ...

... the 100 women who are VPs ...

... the 60 women who are directors ...

... or the 20 women who are geologists?


Why is this important?

In 2005-2006, women earned 45 % of the bachelor's and other undergraduate degrees in geological and earth science/geoscience disciplines in Canada. Today, women geologists represent 20 % of the geologists in leadership roles. As the young women, who graduated 13 years ago, approach 15 years of experience in the industry will they acquire a leadership role? Will they know upper management is attainable if 20 % of the leadership positions are held by women geologists? Will they strive further, for a board position, when 40 % of the board positions are held by geologists but 6 % of the total directors with a geology background are women?

Working Towards Diversity and Inclusion ...

Achieving diversity and inclusion isn't about filling a quota. Inclusion initiatives are about recognizing unconscious bias and implementing strategies to help people thrive. A recent post by Boardsource.org lists steps on how to make board diversity a reality:


1. Accept Responsibility

  • The board sets the tone for the entire organization and whatever it makes a priority will trickle down to the rest of the organization.

2. Take Action

  • Recognize there can be unconscious biases that prevent action from being taken.

  • Identify a champion to lead the initiative.

  • Develop a positioning statement that covers what the organization believes and defines what is to be accomplished.

  • Establish goals with measurable outcomes.

  • Evaluate progress being made.

  • Provide training and facilitate discussions that give your goal a top of mind presence.

3. Avoid Mistakes by:

  • Seeing that achieving diversity goals is everyone’s responsibility.

  • Recognizing that there can be diversity but not inclusion.

  • Fostering assimilation so there is a sense of belonging.

  • Assuming achieving diversity is a marathon not a sprint.

4. Commit to the Change

  • The bottom line is that taking the right action is the way to ensure that your organization advances its mission tomorrow and into the future.



About the Author:

Diana has over 20 years of experience working in the mineral exploration industry searching for diamonds and metals in a range of roles: from heavy minerals lab technician to till sampler, rig geologist, project manager and business owner. Following a Master of Science degree in diamond indicator mineral geochemistry, Diana has conducted field work in BC, NWT, YT, ON (Canada) and in Greenland. She has also been involved, remotely through a BC-based office, on mineral exploration projects located in South America, Africa, Eurasia, Australia and the Middle East. Diana finished a Ph.D. at UNBC in 2017 researching geochemical multivariate statistical analysis and interpretation. Currently, Diana is the owner of Takom Exploration Ltd., a small geological and environmental consulting firm focused on metal exploration in BC and the Yukon.

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