Challenges Facing Women in the Mining, Energy and Construction Sectors of South Africa: Persisting Barriers to Equity in the Workplace

The South African government took deliberate steps to encourage women’s participation in the economy by gazetting a number of progressive policies and legislation to address the challenges faced by women in the workplace. The extent to which these initiatives have been successful in the mining, energy and the construction sectors of the country has not been systematically tracked and documented. Against this background, this study set out to find the challenges, and ascertain the extent of their existence across the mining, energy, and construction sectors of the South African economy. It was envisaged that the research findings would be useful in guiding future interventions aimed at increasing women participation in the formal economy in the three sectors, and in the national economy at large. The research study approach was that of a survey. A total of eight independent but inter-related surveys were conducted in eight National Union of Mine Workers’ (NUM) regions, namely: Highveld, Eastern Cape, North East, PWV, Matlosana, Free State, Rustenburg and Kimberley. The study findings revealed that most of the women occupied low level jobs. The majority of women in the three sectors were ‘general workers’, as opposed to holding managerial and/or professional positions. In some cases, job titles given to women were exaggerated. In terms of education, the majority of women had a matric qualification. This could, in part, explain the low level jobs held but there was still low correlation between position held and the level of education.