Women around the world have for many years been expressing grief about what to wear, since nothing fits them, desperate to hit upon bespoke tailor to look superb and feeling comfortable at work.
As luck would have it, grieving over fitting protective clothing while toiling is a thing of the past for thousands of women working at Exxaro mines, the largest coal and heavy minerals mining company in South Africa.
Exxaro has redesign protective clothing to suit the female body shape, complaining about ill-fitting clothing, hard hats and footwear no longer exists.
The redesign of protective equipment and clothing is the initiative undertaken by Exxaro’s Women in Mining committees to attract more women and empowering those working in the male-dominated industry.
According to the Minerals Council South Africa, women represent only 13% of the 464 667 labour force in mining.
Exxaro’s Executive Head of Human Resources and Women in Mining chairperson Vanisha Balgobind said the company strive not only to ensure commitment to women’s empowerment but also to the entire mining industry.
“The protective clothing we offer to our female employees working on the mines are much more comfortable than before.
It is all thanks to the Women in Mining committees, passionate who they are and their contribution to their work,” said Balgobind.
Balgobind admitted that establishing the committees was a positive step to empowering women in mining.
“We redesign uniform to accommodate women,” she said.
Balgobind said designers made three types of uniforms and piloted it at sites to get feedback from female miners before rolling it out throughout their mines.
The initiatives include change rooms makeover to have a feminine touch, self-defense courses, women’s day celebrations, embracing the male counterparts in ensuring Exxaro is success, celebrating their uniqueness and oneness for the better of the organisation and society.
In addition, said Balgobind, for women’s safety, the company reserves underground toilets with an access code for their exclusive use.
There is also a project underway called women in distress button to upgrade lamps with panic buttons for use by women.
“To make sure their safety, all female miners have a direct hotline to the company’s Chief Executive Officer to report any victimisation, assault or other issues, said Balgobind.
Balgobind said Exxarro has established networking forum where female employees can discuss issues relating to their workplace including family demands, boardroom pressure and leadership issues at their place of employment.
The Committee exposes women working in mining at Exxaro to various programmes including educational opportunities.
“They take part in Exxaro’s official programmes involving schools, communities, learnerships, bursarsis, graduates, and professional initiatives.
These women get exposure in various programmes including mentorship, development, succession and career planning, women networks, coaching and building self-esteem,” added Balgobind.
Exxarro Senior Engineer Metallurgy Ling-Ling Mothapo believes the environment is conducive for women
“Other employees don’t look to you as a woman. What is important is get the job properly done,” said Mothapo.
“Exxaro make us feel comfortable. With Women in Mining programme we openly discuss our issues. I feel special. It feel like I’m capable of doing anything,” said Mechanical fitter and millwright Shelva Mudanabula.
“We are also going to invite men into the committees to make them aware of challenges women face in mining industry. Our mission is not only to empower our female employees, but also our male counterpart,” added Balgobind.