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Research Report

Mining for Talent 2014 – An analysis of women on boards in the global mining industry.

This report is the second in a series of three undertaken by WIM (UK), analysing gender diversity at board level of the top 500 mining companies around the world. It is co-authored with PwC, and supported by Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.



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This is the first of three reports undertaken by Women in Mining (UK) in conjunction with our sponsors Anglo American, Rio Tinto, PwC and Latham & Watkins designed to widen the already well discussed debate about the lack of representation of women on boards to the mining industry.

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Media coverage received to date includes:

The Times, 2 February

Mining Journal x 2, 1 February

Minsite, 11 February. Please see this article below.

Mining Companies With Women Directors Enjoy Greater Margins, Study Shows

Profit margins are higher for mining companies with women on their boards, according to the preliminary findings of a study compiled by the London-based organisation Women in Mining in conjunction with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This, says the report, is consistent with the findings of other studies.

It cites a similar survey undertaken by Catalyst, a Canadian pressure group, which showed that companies with women on their boards also benefited from higher return on sales, higher return on equity, and higher return on invested capital.

Similarly, a study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that companies with women on their boards have a higher return on equity, lower gearing, higher price/book valueand better than average growth.

What conclusions can be drawn from this? The WIM report is primarily concerned with reporting the facts, rather than to applying particular pressure on specific issues.

Thus it sets out the broad framework first: women occupy eight per cent of the board seats of the top 100 global mining companies, and just four per cent when the net is cast slightly wider to include the top 500 companies.

However just one per cent of the executive directors of the top 100 companies are women, with the rest holding non-executive roles. Among the next 101-500 companies the figure is slightly higher, at three per cent.

Overall, among the top 500 mining companies, women hold just three per cent of the directorships.

And boards which have more members tend to have more women on them, which allows for some nuanced interpretations of the statistics.

“While the exact cause of the correlation between market capitalisation, board size, and the level of women’s participation on boards is not known”, says the WIM report, “this correlation raises the question of whether board seats have been created to accommodate female directors and highlights the fact that expanding board size to accommodate female directors dilutes the influence female directors
have on such boards”.

That’s a sentiment which rather echoes the views of female MP Caroline Flint when she wrote her famous letter of resignation to Gordon Brown in 2009. “Several of the women attending Cabinet – myself included – have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing.”

That particular battle in the gender wars got a lot more publicity that the one going on in the mining sector ever will. After all, as the WIM report acknowledges, this is a sector where finding women to undertake senior roles is a “challenge”, partly because women are less likely to stay in mathematics and science education.

Technical industries such as mining, oil and gas, aerospace and construction, are, the report notes as a matter of fact, dominated by men.

But does any of this actually matter? After all, if it’s true that extra board positions are being created for women at the larger company level, does that actually mean that it’s the women themselves who are driving the greater efficiencies that their presence is correlated to?

Or is it in fact the other way round? Are the more financially efficient miners by their very nature more likely to appoint women, whether as “window dressing” or otherwise?

That is a question that isn’t precisely addressed in the WIM report, although some other benefits are laid out pretty clearly.

For example, it notes that The Conference Board of Canada found that boards with three or more women showed different governance behaviours to those with all male boards. The more gender balanced boards were more likely to ensure better communication, adhere
to a code of conduct, identify criteria for measuring strategy and monitor its implementation. They were also more likely to focus on gender diversity, employee satisfaction and corporate social responsibility.

Equally, companies in all sectors with women as directors are 20 per cent less likely to go into liquidation than ones without, according to a study conducted by the University of Leeds.

But if it’s only the more financially robust companies that are appointing women in the first place, that would stand to reason as self-evident.

What’s more, not all women agree that this is a major issue. One female mining company chief executive told Minesite last year that if women want to be treated as equals then it is surely counterproductive for them to set themselves up as a special interest group with their own agenda.

Minesite’s own thoughts? We also need more female mining fund managers. But that’s another story…