Meet Katherine Murray, a Senior Associate from our Africa office. Katherine joined us in 2016 and has worked on a range of mining engagements across Africa. She shares some of the challenges for women in mining and how the industry could become a better place for other women.
What type of work do you do for the mining sector?
I’ve worked on several Continuous Improvement engagements in the mining industry. As a consultant at Partners in Performance, on any given day I could be coaching the client on how to implement our tools, designing improvements and helping the client to implement them, analysing data, running Idea Generation Sessions and problem-solving workshops, designing and creating visualboards for front-time meetings, and basically anything that needs to be done in order to achieve significant, lasting results. Currently I’m working on an engagement at a gold mine in Ghana.
What has been the most meaningful moment in your career so far?
I remember a moment in one of our region’s first Women in Consulting workshops where we were roleplaying how you would help a colleague deal with a difficult issue. As we went through the exercise, we all realised that the problems we face are all very similar (if not the same). It may sound obvious but in a working environment people don’t often let on that they are struggling or experiencing discomfort, so you tend to think that you’re the only one and therefore maybe the problem is actually with you. It was really powerful to learn that we’re not alone in our struggles and challenges – and that we can help each other through them.
What have been the biggest challenges of your professional life as a woman in mining?
The biggest issue for me is feeling like an outsider. Whether it’s people staring or even doing a double-take when they see me on a mine site, or knowing that standard-issue PPE gear will never fit properly. Being the only female on a mine site can be quite lonely and isolating. Another problem is casual sexism – ranging from people apologising when they swear in front of me, assuming I must be the secretary, comments on my weight or appearance, or being asked presumptuous questions like “do you have a boyfriend” or “how many children do you have”. Noticing these things over time contributes to that feeling of being isolated.
Our leadership team has been great with arranging workshops for the women here to build skills and come up with workable solutions to the issues we face. We’re trying to develop a network of women within the region to support each other, and I know I can message our People and Culture team for advice at any time. A lot of our male colleagues have expressed an interest in learning how they can better support us and be allies when it’s needed. When uncomfortable situations arise, I can stand up for myself and know that my team and my leaders are 100% behind me.
What would you like to see change for women in mining (both in the region and more broadly)?
I’d love to see more women in the industry across all roles and levels – and the environment adjusting to suit more women. I feel like the more ‘normal’ women in mining becomes, the easier it will be for women to thrive and be happy in the mining sector.
What is your advice for the next generation of women considering a career in mining?
Don’t settle for something that does not make you happy. Just because it’s the way things work today doesn’t mean it can’t change tomorrow.