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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study on the career advancement and retention of highly qualified women in the Canadian mining industry Hughes, Courtnay Meaghan


The gender imbalance in the Canadian mining industry is considerable and persistent. Despite a substantial forecasted labour shortage, women represent only 14% of the national mining workforce. This research investigates the underutilization and under-representation of a specific labour subset, namely Highly Qualified Women. Highly Qualified Women (HQW) are women who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher. HQW represent a substantial source of technical and leadership capacity for the mining industry. This research study used an online survey as the primary methodology for data collection, and the survey resulted in a sample of 163 HQW respondents. From the responses, HQW career paths were mapped and their perceptions on mining workplace culture and career barriers were analyzed. Results indicated two distinct career pathway trends for HQW in the mining industry. ‘The Specialist,’ a career characterized by multiple professional scientific and technical positions, and ‘The Corporate,’ a career characterized by professional administrative roles and roles in mid-level management. It was found that neither ‘Corporates’ nor ‘Specialists’ systematically progressed into senior management and executive roles. These findings suggest that HQWs careers in mining are stalled, despite a strong indication by respondents of interest in their professional career advancement. With regards to workplace culture, respondents indicated that blatant forms of gender discrimination have been reduced in mining workplaces; however, exclusion from informal networks, implicit bias and subtler forms of workplace discrimination persist. Consistent with previous mining sector research, improving work-life balance, work flexibility and mentorship were found as key drivers for HQW to advance and remain in the industry. From the significant insight of the respondents, strategic recommendations for organizations to improve the advancement and retention of HQW in mining were developed.  

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