Equality? Women still at the bottom

Johannesburg - Research into employment trends in the mining, construction and energy sectors found that women still occupied low-level jobs despite the standards that the industries had set up for women empowerment.

The 2015/16 Sam Tambini Research Institute survey showed that lack of career progress remained the stumbling block in the sectors.

A female miner is seen underground at a facility in Rustenburg, outside Johannesburg. The majority of women in mining are "general workers" as opposed to holding managerial and professional positions, according to the survey. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko. Credit: REUTERS

The study, which was funded by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Mineworkers Investment Trust found that the majority of women in these industries are “general workers” as opposed to holding managerial and professional positions.

It described general workers as assistant back washers, cashiers, car washers, and belt cleaners who held no influence in the sectors.

The report said the main contributor to the low job levels was that many of these women only had a matric qualification, but argued that while education levels could partly explain the low levels of jobs held, there was no correlation between positions held and the level of education.

“Specific to challenges, the main challenge faced by women across the three sectors, irrespective of region, was lack of career progress,” said the report.

It said other challenges that resulted in the lack of career progress were discrimination in decision making and remuneration.

“Women predominantly attributed the challenges they faced to their immediate supervisors and company policies,” according to the report.

The study interviewed a total of 2 856 women from eight (NUM) regions of Highveld, Eastern Cape, North Eastern Cape, PWV, Motlosana (Klerksdorp), Free State, Rustenburg and Kimberley.

General workers

In the construction industry, 76.8 percent of women interviewed were in the category of general workers, as opposed to 3.7 percent in management and 4.6 percent in professional jobs.

In the mining industry, 35.1 percent of women were general workers, while 39.7 percent of those in energy were general workers.

The research revealed that despite the advances, women faced hurdles in entering the job market and getting higher ranking jobs.

“This limits their progress, weighs on their social status and ultimately restricts their personal development.”

However in another report, Women In Mining (WimSA) - an organisation which aims to provide women with support and guidance for personal growth in mining - said it believed that women in mining were not taking their future into their own hands.

The WimSA report revealed that 65 percent of respondents were not taking advantage of the opportunities that were provided by companies as required by the Mining Charter.


The survey emphasised that gender diversification and transformation opportunities, as called for by the government and other structures, were not being taken up by many women in mining.

It found that 52 percent of women in the emerging level were not engaging and 63 percent of established women concurred.

“Some of the questions arising from this are whether women are aware of the opportunities available to them, whether they know how to take advantage of the opportunities and whether they want to,” said the report.

“Some of the respondents also feel that they do not want to take advantage of the system, just because they are women.”