Corporate news

Finding the balance: 4 ways in which Imerys is tackling gender inequality in the mining industry

Through its Diversity and Inclusion program, Imerys aims to improve gender equity by acting on recruitment, training, culture and awareness.

Gender equity

Imerys has worked over the past few years to improve female employee representation in the workplace, but it still has a long way to go. With the rollout of a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion program, the company is hoping to deliver much-needed change and move closer to its goal of higher female representation across its workforce.

Gender diversity has historically been a problem for the global mining sector. Focused efforts to address and improve inequality and create opportunities for women in science has led to some progress over the years, but the results are still lacking. 

On average, women are estimated to make up just 13.2% of C-suite roles, while 14.9% are in executive roles and 18.1% are in the industry's board positions.

Imerys’ numbers are around the mining industry average when it comes to the percentage of women that make up its overall workforce (17%), but some disparities remain – for example, there is only one woman on the executive committee. The Group has, however, increased its staffing levels for women in senior manager roles reporting to executive committee members, up from 19% in 2018 to 26% in 2020.

The company is actively working towards improving gender diversity and equity with the goal of increasing equality in the workplace. 

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), as part of the company strategy, has been integrated into business planning, and a D&I program has been created with input from D&I working groups made up of employees across the globe. Imerys has established an additional network of D&I ambassadors – currently 148 employees and growing –who connect quarterly to define objectives for the year and share information and experiences. 

The program focuses on four areas of action:

Recruitment – removing bias and treating men and women equally

The Group’s recruitment policy is being updated, following feedback from internal stakeholders to include additional diversity criteria during the recruitment process and ensure women are not being overlooked for job positions.

Roles are required to have a diverse shortlist that’s gender-balanced where possible – something head-hunters working for the Group have been made aware of. For final selection, preference is given to diverse candidates in terms of gender, origin and background, where the common assessment process has evaluated applicants as equally qualified.

Camille Siebering, Human Resources VP for Reward & Talent, says: “We are actively trying to develop Imerys as a more gender-balanced company where women have interesting and fulfilling career opportunities, as this will be recognized externally and attract a wider talent pool. Internal promotion is also important, and we are taking great care to ensure potential bias is acknowledged and challenged when identifying and promoting key talent within the company.”

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program, Imerys has set an objective to increase the number of women in senior management positions to 30% by the end of 2022. 

“This target isn’t the end goal, rather a milestone as we work towards the change we want”, says Camille.

Valérie Chataud, Human Resources VP for one of Imerys’ five business areas, says: “Diversity in our people creates an environment that is stimulating and innovating, as the team is exposed to different ways of thinking. In order to improve female recruitment and promotion, we aim to always have female candidates on shortlists where there are equal competency levels. We are also reinforcing our internal communication around job opportunities and potential career paths. Within mandatory individual development plans, there are specific actions to help women develop, network and increase their exposure across the company.”

Training – developing employees in inclusive behaviour

Developing leaders and the wider workforce on the different aspects of diversity and inclusion is of major importance, and Imerys is deploying training courses and toolkits around D&I. Coaching and mentoring guidelines have also been provided for managers and inclusive leadership training has been revised. 

By improving training and increasing employees’ understanding of diversity dimensions in the workplace – not only gender, but also cultural diversity, and physical and mental abilities – Imerys hopes to empower its people to live the values it promotes and call out discrimination and bias.

HR policies, processes and tools are being reviewed from a D&I perspective, so anyone who wants to raise an issue will have internal resources and guidelines to support them when doing so.

Ophélie Anjard, Technical Support Manager for Paints and Coatings, adds: “Being a woman has never been an obstacle for me to develop myself in the science field. More and more women are represented in the science industry in general, even if there is still some progress to make at a higher level where they are less represented. At Imerys, I started working as a scientist right after my studies and I had the chance to progress into a technical support manager role thanks to my manager’s trust. Imerys is a good platform that offers opportunities beyond genders and where diversity is becoming more and more important.”

Xolisa Manqele, Human Resources Director in South Africa, adds: “Being a woman working at Imerys means for me opportunities for diversity and inclusion in a sector that has always been considered to be mainly for men. There are opportunities for growth within all areas of the business. It opens doors for future talent to see there are opportunities in industries that might have not been on their radar, like the mining industry. As a woman working at Imerys, I see opportunities for me in this organization in the future. It is up to me what I want to do with the opportunities available and offered."

Culture – closing the gap on what we say and what we do

Employee experience extends beyond a person’s role, so Imerys is looking at the message its culture and working environment sends to women.   

“At the moment, it’s easier to attract women into office-based roles, and the working conditions are undoubtedly a part of that,” says Camille. “To tackle this, in 2020 we assessed the suitability of our sites for women, which included looking at the appropriate number of facilities such as changing rooms and restrooms.”

Nancy E Bunt, Commercial Director for our Americas region and one of our D&I ambassadors, recalls: “More than 40 years ago, when I was in high school, I attended a STEM program. Back then, females represented about 18% of STEM careers. Today, sadly, it is not significantly different. I started in R&D and technical support and have since crossed over into sales and marketing management, and have found it an exciting ‘home’ to be a female in. I am proud that my sales team at Imerys is 50/50 women and men.”

Our people – changing mindsets in mining

The success of Imerys’ organizational development towards D&I relies heavily on involvement from its people. To achieve real equality, all employees need to work together to eliminate any barriers or unconscious biases that conflict with the desired culture and values of diversity and inclusion.

Frederique Berthier-Raymond, Group General Counsel & Company Secretary, says: “I hope my role on the executive committee shows colleagues that Imerys supports women at all levels in the organization – but we need to go beyond recruitment and promotion, and actively drive cultural change. To foster real inclusion and increase the number of female leaders and women in our industry, we all have to learn to value the differences that diversity of leadership styles and interaction brings. We need a change in mindset to close the gender gap and create the same opportunities for women as there are for men.”

Gender equality in the workplace is a win-win situation for both men and women – it results in increased productivity, higher levels of creativity and more effective problem-solving – but everyone must be on board. 

Failing to be inclusive may still lead to increased numbers of women in the workplace in the short term, but long-term progress won’t be sustainable, which is why the Group is putting lots of energy into raising awareness of its goals. 

“Mining has been set in its ways for many years, so implementing a change of any kind is no easy feat”, concludes Camille. “But we have to be capable of creating a change in mindset if we want to be the best we can be. If we can create self-awareness, challenge our mindset and the way we practice diversity and inclusion in Imerys, then we can be a success.”