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Gender diversity a top priority in Ontario

Apr 19, 2021

By: Kevin Vincent

Governments and corporations world-wide continue to face increasing pressure from community stakeholders and investors to ensure that boards of directors and high-level cabinet positions achieve gender parity. When it comes to Ontario’s mining and energy sectors, progress has been made but there’s still work to be done.

“When I became the minister, I made some commitments,” said Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford. “Methodically, surgically even, I set out to make sure that women were populated, not just on any Boards that were a crown corporation that is owned by the government. That’s why there’s women leaders, experts in their field sitting and two of them, by the way, indigenous on Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation. In fact, one is the chair.”
Hydro One’s board is 50% men and 50% women under the Ford government. The women who serve on the board include: Cherie Brant - Member of Audit Committee, Member of Indigenous Peoples, Safety & Operations Committee; Jessica McDonald - Member of Human Resources Committee, Member of Indigenous Peoples, Safety & Operations Committee; Stacey Mowbray - Member of Governance & Regulatory Committee, Member of Indigenous Peoples, Safety & Operations Committee;  Melissa Sonberg - Chair of Human Resources Committee, Member of Audit Committee; and Susan Wolburgh Jenah - Member of Governance & Regulatory Committee, Member of Indigenous Peoples, Safety & Operations Committee.
“Further to that, at the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), we’re pleased to say now is being led by a very, very talented woman, who we chose based on merit and frankly she was a distant first. Similarly, the Independent Electricity System Operators (IESO) is now headed up by a very, talented woman. These are things that a Minister can do to change the dynamic.”

Not just professionals, but demographics are shifting

Diversity is not isolated to governments. Newmont, the world’s largest gold producer, has made it a priority as well. “The thing that I’ve seen at Newmont is the actions of the Board are critical,” said Newmont’s John Mullally. “We’re at 50% board representation from women. It’s 50/50 with gender parity. And really the tone from the top and the focus on inclusion and diversity is really emanating from the board and coming down from our leadership. I think that is extremely critical.”
That translates down to the grassroots level as well. At Newmont’s Porcupine division for example, more and more young women are joining the workforce and at the management levels.
Newmont Porcupine staff spend considerable time in school career fairs. Members of the HR department and Sustainability & External Relations department will go out to the various schools and participate and talk about mining. According to longtime HR Manager Domenic Rizzuto, it’s not just the professionals, but the demographics, that are really shifting. “Mining was seen as a predominantly male-dominated industry, which in some aspect it still is. But we are starting to see a shifting tide. We get a lot more females coming into the mining fold to where 15% of our workforce is now female.”
“It’s doubled over the last 10 years. Today, 40% of our senior roles are held by females. Those are professional people in managerial and supervisory positions. And we’re starting to see the fruits of our labour from a couple of years back with regards to encouraging women to get into mining, professional positions, and our production areas as well.”
Rizzuto says there are really good careers in mining. “A lot of people don’t realize that the vast variety of careers aren’t the old pick-and-shovel or drilling miner. There are so many different careers nowadays. It’s really about educating young people in that regard.”
“Take our summer student program. Years ago, it was always our sons working at the mine for the summer. Now, it’s no longer our sons, but our daughters. And in fact, last year and the year before, 60% of our students were female.”
Mines Minister Rickford sees the education system as a critical piece of the gender parity puzzle. “I think we have to remain committed to a STEM paradigm or reorientation to that, if you will in our schools and create opportunities for young girls, two of them being my daughters who are interested in this space, for example, to ask questions about it and understand what the opportunity is. Especially since they live out here in beautiful Northwestern Ontario, it’s all around them.”
“Our Human Resource Development, quite frankly, in Northern Ontario is being focused on the places that it should be. And that is one of the most exciting dynamic opportunities with Indigenous peoples. And that’s why I’ve created an Indigenous Internship Program in the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund focused squarely on, I like to call them opportunities, but obviously, structural challenges that Indigenous young people face getting into the workforce.”
“I think we all challenge ourselves to make sometimes subtle and other times bold commitments that are not just symbolic but are substantive in our industries. That opportunity, I think can never go fast enough, but it’s going very well.”

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