KUALA LUMPUR – Mining is one business that’s seen as one with predominantly male employees. It came as a surprise to everyone, therefore, when Brazil-based multinational mining corporation Vale SA announced in 2019 that it aims to double its female workforce by 2030.

The company seems to be well on its way to achieve this seemingly huge task. In 2019, 13% employees at Vale were women. At present, the ratio of female employees stands at 16.1% and the company aims to increase this to 26 % globally by 2030. CEO of Vale’s Malaysia operations Rodrigo Rebeiro de Araújo spells out to Women Icons Network how the company is working towards attaining this goal.

The strategy of diversity and inclusion is one of our top priorities within the ‘People’ pillar in Vale SA, insists Araújo. The importance of this issue within the company can be understood by the fact that the top gun himself is working closely with the regional HR team, and the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) practice to promote a more inclusive working culture in Malaysia.

“Eradicating gender inequalities is a huge challenge. We believe that an approach of inclusion is key to eliminate the barriers that hinder the hiring and retention of women. The resulting diversity can bring about a huge performance improvement as well,” said Araújo. His company is committed to leading the way towards increasing female participation in the traditionally male-dominated mining sector, he adds.

The pledge towards this can has been put up on the company’s official communication channels in Malaysia, including social media. Vale in Malaysia tracks parameters, such as the percentage of female participation in workforce, to ensure that the company is on track towards achieving its female participation goal.

Advocacy campaign

“This year, we conducted a successful Mining by Women advocacy campaign on our global social media channels. The campaign explores the theme of women participation in the mining industry through an effective storytelling campaign,” informs Araújo of the advocacy activities undertaken by the company.

Through short videos, the web series presents narratives about the personal lives, work routines, and career paths of several Vale employees from operations to leadership, showing that women can find fulfilling work in the mining industry, he explains. This web series, besides inspiring women to take up opportunities in the mining sector also improves the morale of female employees featured in it.

Vale has been adhering to the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles since 2013 – these principles form a set of guidelines developed by the United Nations (UN) targeted at corporations. “We provide maternity leave allocation that is above the statutory requirements in Malaysia. We also conduct regular dialogues and engagements with female staff to allow us to continuously improve our facilities to become more women-friendly,” Araújo says while informing about how the company is encouraging female employees to join.

“We are also committed to addressing issues, such as accessibility to working mothers and gender pay gap. Gender pay gap is a common issue that unfortunately still afflicts many sectors. We track the status this situation in our company, which we report transparently on our website,” informs Araújo.

Redressal of grievances

Ask him how the company deals with sexual harassment cases, he says that there is a well-established mechanism to deal with the issue. Detailing this, he says, “The company does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind, including moral or sexual. Any inappropriate behaviour, whether from a co-worker, manager or contractor, can be reported to the Ombudsman’s Office. Vale is also embarking on various diversity and human rights promotion campaign internally to create awareness on the issue and promote honest dialogues and conversations.”

The company provides regular training to managers, leaders and the entire HR team to eliminate gender biases in hiring as well as retention process. “Every member of Vale’s senior management team also needs to attend Diversity and Inclusion workshops, as they need to lead by example,” informs Araújo.

These policies extend to all the collaborators of the company, not just its employees. “We encourage our suppliers and partners to continually seek to recognize and promote women’s talent and capabilities, reducing the historical and cultural discrepancy in access to opportunities but without creating a discriminatory environment,” tells Araujo. The suppliers are also required to declare that they are adhering to Vale’s human rights practices in the areas where they are dealing with the company.

Araújo is sure that with all these efforts, the company will succeed in its goal to increase female participation in the mining industry. “We also hope that these practices become standard across sectors with more industries proactively working towards amount the corporate world more inclusive and diverse in the true sense,” he says as a parting note.