WOW – Women in Mining

“You are more than enough. Never shrink your ideas or personality to fit into someone else’s idea of who you ought to be.”

Thuli Danxa

As Women’s month draws to a close, we look back at and celebrate some incredible women we have had the privilege of working with over the years, in one of the toughest, most male dominated industries, mining.

It is difficult and somehow not quite enough to say “thank you”, or even “I admire you”, and so  we decided to write this piece as our tribute to four leading ladies who have dedicated their lives to breaking the glass ceiling and showing that a uniquely “woman’s touch” can have a positive impact on numerous lives and the industries in which they serve.

From the onset all four of our ladies had aspirations of assisting or helping others and blazing trails in sometimes – uncharted territory. Sure, tell-tale signs of the strong independent women they were bound to be in later years.  We asked Boitumelo “Tumi” Motlhaba, Coreen Bierman, Thabisile “Thabi” Phumo and Thuli Danxa a series of questions in order to understand, and hopefully inspire other women that anything is possible, and that being female is its own superpower.

As a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up? 

WOW - Women in MiningWhat inspires you to get out of bed every day?

What was clear, speaking to these women, is that their motivation and drive is aligned to a single-minded goal – to excel in their spaces and inspire those around them. It’s not about power or position, it’s about people. For Coreen, her family is at the core of her motivation – the happiness and well-being of those around her and inspiring her children on a daily basis is her fundamental driving force.

Thabi believes just waking up in the morning is a gift. She treasures the role she has been given as she can actively contribute to the lives and livelihoods of the miners she works with so closely.

Tumi’s, motivation is her two vivacious, and sometimes very loud nieces. As a nurturer and role model it is up to her to demonstrate a good work ethic, to set the example of what it is to be a woman in business, and to ensure that those little girls know that they have the potential to be anything they want in life.

Thuli finds her energy in knowing she is going to be contributing positively to another person’s life. That in itself, is a gift and a significant responsibility, that she does not take lightly, but relishes the opportunity.

Do you think women in senior positions in the mining industry have changed boardroom narratives?

We know all too well that breaking the glass ceiling comes with many challenges but offers workplaces a whole new perspective. The kind, nurturing and intuitive attitudes instilled in these women drive them to have a voice and be recognized in their own right. Their influence has made them successful; their intelligence, hard work and enthusiasm has brought them to the positions they find themselves in today, not because they are women, but in spite of it.

The industry is seeing a gradual move to being more accepting of women in executive positions, but there is still much work to be done. A culture shift is necessary to recognize that women are capable of having numerous diverse roles, be they mothers, nurturers, business people and still be successful leaders, this change is slowly building momentum. Even women in the industry can be skeptical of each other’s success, it is imperative that we back each other, and ‘fix each other’s crowns.”

“People with no voice and hope get to believe in me,” says Thuli, “I think it’s mostly because I am a woman. When women trust me, open up to me, this gives me more strength to do my best to empower and develop them”.

We asked the ladies what advice they would give to young women in South Africa today, and here is what they said.

Many women growing up in South Africa are faced with preconceived notions of a “woman’s role” even from close family members, “When I grew up, I read a lot and had all these ideas of what I wanted to become.” says Tumi “My poor father was concerned, and said that women should marry, settle down, and become mothers. But we can do both.” Tumi has gone on to prove the impact she could have, not only in business but in a business as tough as mining. Her upbeat nature and resilient attitude is clear in her thoughts for other young women. “No matter what the obstacles, never give up. Try any method to succeed. Surround yourself with women in power who can mentor and inspire you.”

Thabi’s recipe for success is that you need to have courage. Make your purpose your best friend and overlay it with fun.

When asked what she would advise other young women, Coreen provided a checklist, one we could all learn from:

  • Follow your dreams and just do it.
  • Make a positive difference and do some good.
  • Believe in your ideas and be the best.
  • Have fun and look after your team.
  • Don’t give up. Never, Never, Never.
  • Make lots of lists and keep setting yourself new challenges.
  • Spend time with your family and learn to delegate.

It is encouraging to witness the success of these four ladies. They are some of the forerunners in our industry pushing boundaries and laying the foundations of the positive impact women can have in this space. Every woman is an ambassador, an example of what can and should be achieved.

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