Loveness says more women in mining is good for business and shares advice for young women thinking of a career in the industry.

My background is in food science and I started my career at Delta Beverages and Dairibord in Zimbabwe, working on business management and quality control systems. The food industry is also male-dominated because the expertise comes from the sciences and engineering and women are less able to do shift work when they have children. The more specialist you get, the fewer women there are, so I’m used to being the only lady in the room. 

When I moved across to mining I faced three big challenges. I was the first woman at supervisor or manager level, I was introducing new systems teams had never seen before and I was a food scientist so people couldn’t figure out what I was doing there. It took time to get their respect, to fit into the pack and for them to listen to me. Fortunately I had the support of the CEO, MD and GM – all men – who encouraged me at every turn and explained to the teams why business systems are critical.   

Since my first week working at a mine I was fascinated in the mining process. I’d sit in meetings where they were discussing life of mine plans and BCMs and it triggered my curiosity. The CEO encouraged me to pursue an MSc in Mining Engineering and I’m doing well at it. 

Changing Times

The men in senior positions I’ve worked with are very supportive and there’s a growing recognition that we need more managers with traditionally female attributes in the industry. I was speaking with a metallurgist in the USA recently who told me he thought there would be fewer accidents if more women were in management positions – because we are more cautious, more thorough and we have the ability to influence others’ behaviour. 

More women are studying science and engineering subjects – we know this from the undergraduate groups who come to visit us at the mine – but we need a deliberate agenda to get female graduates into technical positions. Businesses have to make it a priority. And they have to support us as mothers too. Mines are usually in remote locations and most men can leave their families in the city so the kids can go to good schools. That’s not an option for me, I’m a single mum and my daughter has just turned four. She’s very bright and I’m so happy that there is a school in Kadoma, which ticks all my boxes. 

Hold your head high

Mining is a fast-paced, sometimes aggressive environment so it will build your resilience and push you to your limits. It has made me grow as a person and I’ve achieved things I could never have dreamed of. As women we have to work harder to gain trust and respect but walk in with confidence, hold your head high, knowing that you can do the job, and you will be rewarded.