Editorial – Women in Mining class make history for women in the workplace

As the women in mining class graduates, it's a good chance to consider how far women in the workplace have come, and how far there is to go.

Last week, a class of women graduated from a course preparing them for employment in the mining industry.

While women have made headway into certain industries and occupations, there is still a great gap between women and men in many others, including mining.

Whenever any class graduates, it is a great achievement. But there is even more cause to celebrate this time because of what this class represents.

For so long, society has kept “jobs for women” separated from “men’s work.” Even today, the percentage of women electricians is less than one per cent in Canada, whereas there are very few men working in child care, nursing or administration roles.

According to a 2010 report from Women in Mining in Canada, which is a non-profit organization focused on advancing the interests of women in the industry, women represented 14 per cent of the workforce in the Canadian mining industry in 2006, and many of these jobs were administrative and culinary.

It is really exciting to see that Teck wants to encourage more women to see their future in mining.

They partnered up with The College of The Rockies in Fernie to offer a three-week training program in March to introduce women to the types of careers available within the surface coal mining industry.

The program included fundamentals and procedures in surface mining, computer skills, occupational first aid level 1, workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS), health, safety and reclamation code for mines, fall protection, haul truck simulator, mine tour and ride-along training with veteran operators. These are definitely the kind of jobs that have traditionally been filled by men.

However, there is no logical reason why women should not be doing these jobs. As long as they are thick skinned enough to put up with some inevitable prejudice from colleagues, women are equally capable of filling every mining job that a man can, including “hard hat” jobs like truck drivers and mechanics.

This is the first time the Women in Mining course has been offered through The College of the Rockies, but hopefully it won’t be the last. Women trying to gain employment in the mining industry will still be trying to find their way into a very male dominated industry, and will have to work even harder than men in order to prove themselves capable.

However, this course is another step towards achieving equality for women, and is a strong signal from Teck that women are welcome, and that prejudice from Teck workers against female colleagues will not be tolerated.