From awareness to action: Highlights of the Developing Diversity in Mining workshop

“What value did I create today?”

Attendees of the Developing Diversity in Mining workshop considered that question in the context of fostering inclusion at work. Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries and is constantly looking for value in what can be extracted. In the process, the value added by individual workers and their unique experiences can be overlooked.

“For the most part, people are well intentioned, but in order to really achieve business results, we need to have everybody’s voice included,” said Deborrah Himsel, Adjunct Faculty with the University of Arizona’s Eller Executive Education and a presenter at the workshop.

The workshop was part of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration’s Arizona Conference, a two-day event hosted at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, Dec. 8-9, 2019. The annual conference is devoted to regional development of the mining industry.

The Arizona Chapter of Women in Mining organized the event, in keeping with its goal or creating a more inclusive environment for women in the industry.

“Women in Mining’s vision is to recruit, retain and advance women professionals in mining,” said Rosa Maria Rojas, Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Arizona and the Arizona Chapter President of Women in Mining. “Particularly technical professionals in the industry.”

Rosa Maria Rojas presents her findings from the 2018 Developing Diversity in Mining workshop.

Learning from the past

The workshop began with a reflection on the 2018 event. Rojas shared survey results that were used to improve the workshop. The previous attendees were surveyed to assess their awareness and knowledge of diversity initiatives in their workplaces.

The surveys are part of “Assessing the effectiveness of diversity policies and initiatives in the U.S. Mining industry” a research project that Rojas is working on with Fatemeh Molaei, a PhD student at the University of Arizona.

The current attendees also completed the survey before jumping into hands-on exercises.

A nudge in the right direction

“It is one thing to have an awareness of diversity and inclusion, but it is another to make it happen,” Himsel said. “I wanted to provide some opportunities for participants to discuss actionable and practical things that can be done to increase inclusion in the workplace.”

To put things in action, participants were asked to break into small groups and work through practical examples.

Deborrah Himsel writes down each group’s nudge ideas during the workshop.

The groups first brainstormed inclusion nudges, or ways to trick the brain into doing something different. A nudge targets the mind’s shortcomings to help reduce unconscious bias and create more inclusive work environments.

One example of a nudge related to being “he-peated,” a phenomenon that happens when a woman’s ideas in a meeting are ignored, but then repeated by a man and acknowledged.

Calling attention to the person who had the original idea was a nudge suggested to change this behavior. This recognizes the individual and brings awareness to the unconscious bias.

A nudge can be designed to influence small behaviors like choosing the stairs over the elevator, or more complex behaviors that come from learned stereotypes. The process forces people to question their own bias.

Attendees share their responses after a group exercise related to microaggressions.

Controlling microaggressions

Microaggressions are small, often unintentional verbal indignities that target someone who belongs to a marginalized group.

One example of this would be asking someone who looks foreign, why they don’t have an accent. While the intention may be harmless, the person receiving the question may take it negatively or feel excluded.

“Context is everything, but how you receive it is another piece,” Himsel said.

While one microaggression might not affect an individual, a series of microaggressions can ultimately sap a person’s energy and make them doubt whether they belong.

The 2019 Developing Diversity in Mining workshop included panelists with a wide range of experiences in the mining industry.

Every voice heard

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Tracy Sole de Hoop, Director of Marketing at Hexagon’s Mining Division. During the panel, Stacey Koon, General Manager Administration at Freeport McMoRan, Juanita Parkerson, Student Intern at Caterpillar, Steve Rusk, Vice President of Mining at Stantec, and Anita Bertisen, Principal Advisor for Management Operational Technology and Innovation at Newmont, shared how their wide range of experiences shaped their views on inclusion and diversity.

Anita Bertisen opened the discussion with her experience at Newmont. Early in her career, she joined a Women and Allies group to discuss diversity and inclusion issues in the company. This helped foster an environment where she could talk about these issues openly.

“We were talking about unconscious bias and issues like microaggressions,” Bertisen said. “Having a culture that is accepting of speaking out about these issues is very empowering.”

Stacey Koon mentioned initiatives that didn’t work for her company. An example was placing too much focus on diversity initiatives without an inclusion program.

“We’ve done a really good job at attracting a diverse workforce,” Koon said. “However, when you don’t have an inclusive environment, people are not going to thrive and not going to want to stay.”

While everyone has come away with different opinion of diversity initiatives, the panelists agreed that these efforts have improved throughout their careers.

Steve Rusk noted a visit to a mine in Canada during the 1980s. Women were not allowed to be within the perimeter of the mine, so they had to place a building outside of the fence line for some of their workers.

“When I first started in the industry, there was purposeful exclusion.” Rusk said. “We are at a point where we are now recognizing diversity and taking action to encourage it.”

Juanita Parkerson mentioned that she followed her brother’s footsteps in the mining industry after transitioning from a career in the U.S. Navy. She feels included in the industry even as a student with a non-traditional background. She praised the mentorship she received at the University of Arizona and her interactions with people in industry as part of her success.

“It is the perfect opportunity to ask questions,” Parkerson said. “It is the perfect opportunity to grow.”

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