Gender Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide for Explorers

This resource is designed as a guide for companies that are new to understanding issues and implementing efforts related to gender, diversity and inclusion.

The purpose of this document is to provide the information and tools needed for exploration and mining companies to:

  1. Implement gender diversity and inclusion strategies and programs; and,
  2. Cultivate more gender inclusive and diverse environments both internally (i.e. within their own workforce) and externally within the communities in which they engage.

This document will cover key definitions, the current context and business case for diversity and inclusion as well as provide an overview of common issues and barriers, and key opportunities for change. Case studies, helpful resources and tools for implementation are also included.

The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada would like to acknowledge the central role of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group members, and all others who have contributed to the development of this guidance document. Please see here more information on the Working Group.

Part 1: Gender Diverse
and Inclusive Workplaces

Download Part 1

Part 2: Gender Diversity and
Inclusion in a Community Setting

Download Part 2

Why Gender Diversity and Inclusion?

Introduction to D&I

You may hear the terms diversity and inclusion being used more commonly in day-to-day work places across the mining and mineral exploration industry. Society has increasingly high expectations of the private sector and its role in creating an inclusive and safe space for all people. This sentiment is shared by shareholders, investors, stock exchange, employees and communities. As a result, there are significant benefits for companies that successfully work toward business practices and workplace cultures that are diverse and inclusive. Benefits include greater likelihood of securing “social license”, accessing government funding, and improving facilitation and success of company-community engagement. The mineral sector is thus rethinking the way they conduct their business, the way they behave, and the decisions they make on a daily basis.

While diversity and inclusion are broad topics, the mineral industry has a unique opportunity to be a leader in gender diversity and inclusion. In this male-dominated industry, companies (large and small) can take key actions to alter business practices and processes that perpetuate inequality. This document is meant to support you and your organization to make the necessary changes to address gender diversity and inclusion, and to become a leader in the mining and mineral exploration industry.

While diversity and inclusion is certainly not limited to issues regarding gender, lack of gender diversity remains a prominent issue in the mineral industry. This guide is an opportunity to begin to reflect on your organization’s work culture, structure, and/or policies, and engagement with communities to consider ways in which gender diversity and inclusion are accounted for.

Gender Imbalance in the Mineral Industry

Gender imbalances, which often lead to inequalities, are widespread in many industries and societies—particularly in the mineral industry. Globally, the World Economic Forum identified mining and energy as having the lowest levels of female participation of all industries. In 2016, women made up only 16% of the mineral sector workforce in Canada despite representing nearly half of the Canadian workforce overall. Globally, it is estimated only 5 -10% of the mining workforce is female. Studies also show that the impacts and benefits of exploration and mining are not shared equally between men and women in host communities. For example, economic development from a mineral project may provide employment opportunities that are restricted to men, or environmental and social impacts of a project may alter the day-to-day work of women in remote communities.

Tackling gender diversity and inclusion within the mineral industry demands fundamental changes from within and ultimately a substantial “reshaping of the values, cultures and norms that produce and maintain gender bias within the sector”.
Business Case

The benefits of diversity and inclusion are becoming clearer. Global studies consistently demonstrate a positive relationship between diversity and business performance (Note: this relationship reflects correlation, not causation). For example, we know that companies with executive teams in the top quartile for gender diversity tend to outperform on profitability and value creation. Additionally, large mining companies have reported that their most diverse-mine sites have outperformed others by roughly 15% over previous years. It is also well-known that inclusive engagement—that is, seeking input from underrepresented groups—can help to strengthen projects and maximize community benefits, while a failure to do so can perpetuate existing inequalities.

Key considerations for improving gender diversity and inclusion in your company include:

  • Attracting and retaining valuable talent
  • Supporting Safety and Health
  • Better Decision Making and Performance
  • Human Rights Obligations
  • Avoiding Company-Community Conflict and Improving Development Outcomes
  • Aligning with Government Priorities

Terms and Definitions

A Word About Language

It is important to acknowledge from the outset the significance of language. The correct use of language assists in framing issues properly, keeps the discussion respectful, and helps identify areas where improper use of terms and concepts is impacting key decisions. As a starting point, when it comes to conversations about gender, the male/female and man/woman binary is problematic as it fails to recognize intersex, transgender, and non-binary/nonconforming people.

Recognizing this challenge, we strive to use inclusive language throughout the guidance document. However, given that the majority of research on the topic of gender, particularly in the natural resource sector, focuses on men and women, you will notice that this document will from time to time refer to men and women or to males and females—this is a product of the research currently available to us which does not yet satisfy a degree of clarity that we can relay. We understand gender to be fluid and on a spectrum.

Understanding Gender

Gender is a dynamic concept that refers to the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for “men” and “women”. In most societies, there exist differences and inequalities between women and men with regards to assignment of responsibilities, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender roles are part of a given society’s broader socio-cultural context and can change over time.

Gender and biological sex are not the same, nor are they interchangeable. Sex is rooted in biology and reflected in chromosomes and primary and secondary sex characteristics. Whereas, gender is a product of the society we live in and should be understood as a dynamic, emergent, local, variable and fluctuating social construction of what is means to be a “man” and a “woman.”

To begin improving gender equality in the workplace and our community engagement practices, it is important to understand some key terminology.

Key Terminology

Diversity speaks to the variety of unique dimensions, qualities and characteristics that make us different as individuals.

Inherent diversity – race, gender, religion

Acquired diversity – work experience, language skills

Gender diversity – an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of gender-related identities and ways of expression

Inclusion is the collective. It is creating a culture that strives for equity, and embraces, respects, accepts and values individual differences.

Diversity & Inclusion means respect for, and appreciation of, differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion; and to create an environment that values, celebrates and respects individuals for their talents, skills and abilities to the benefit of the collective.

Gender equality refers to equal chances or opportunities for groups of people, regardless of gender, to access and control social, economic and political resources, including protection under the law (such as health services, education and voting rights). Gender equality means that we all enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. Because power structures in societies across the world mostly privilege boys and men, advancing gender equality most often requires addressing disadvantages faced by girls and women. At the same time, gender inequality pervades personal, family and social relationships and institutions, and affects not only women and girls, but also men and boys, and requires the engagement of all sexes to make progress towards justice and equality. Shifts in gender equality require not only awareness and behaviour change, but also changes in the fundamental power dynamics that define gender norms and relationships. 

Equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone, while equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits to reach the same finish line.

Gender diversity is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of gender-related identities and ways of expression. Gender inclusion is acknowledging that everyone deserves to be treated with respect regardless of gender identity and expression, and ensuring that systems and processes treat all genders equally.

Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define male, female and intersex persons. A person’s sex is most often designated by a medical assessment at the moment of birth. This is also referred to as birth-assigned sex.

Sexual orientation is the direction of one’s sexual interests or attraction.

Gender is a multidimensional concept which broadly refers to the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society assigns to male and female persons. Such expectations are referred to as gender norms. While gender norms are typically rigid in the dichotomy of masculine/feminine, gender is in fact fluid and exists along a spectrum.

Gender binary is the classification of gender into two rigid options of either man or woman. Within a gender binary, each option is granted specific and exclusive characteristics. Most notably, masculinity is associated with men, and femininity with women. Gender binaries are exclusionary and do not reflect how gender operates and fluctuates across a spectrum.  

Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of self as a woman, a man, both, or neither. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Furthermore, gender identity can be fluid and transcend along the gender spectrum. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person’s sexual orientation.

Gender expression refers to how a person publicly presents gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as manner of dress, hair, make-up, walk, mannerisms, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronouns are common ways of expressing their gender.

LGBTQ2 is an acronym standing for the categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual (those who are attracted to both men and women), transgender, intersex, queer (a self-identifying term used in some gay communities, typically by younger persons) and two-spirit. There are many different acronyms that may be used by various communities. It should be noted that acronyms like these may combine sex, gender and sexual orientation attributes into one community. This combination may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances, specificity should be used when possible.

Intersex is defined as a congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. Intersex people are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, sex hormones, genitalia, or sex organs that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female bodies. 

Trans or transgender is an umbrella term that refers to people with diverse gender identities and expressions that may differ from stereotypical expectations based on sex or gender norms, and/or do not correspond with their birth-assigned sex. It includes, but is not limited to, people who identify as transgender, trans woman (male-to-female), trans man (female-to-male), gender non-conforming, or gender queer.

Gender queer is a term used by some individuals to depict how they identify outside of the gender binary of man/woman. It is also used as an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities. 

Two-spirit is a term used by some Indigenous cultures for a person who displays any of the gender characteristics in the LGBTQ2 categories. It may refer to sex, gender or sexual orientation, or a combination of these.

Intersectionality: When two or more facets of identity, such as class, race, age ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender, overlap in the experiences of an individual or group, creating interconnected barriers and complex forms of discrimination that can be insidious, covert and compounded.

Gender Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces


Companies, both large and small, are looking at their own workforce to understand what is required to create a diverse and inclusive workplace that will pay dividends to stakeholders, shareholders and the communities in which they operate. In order to address inequalities and ensure workers are treated equitably regardless of gender, we must look at the internal barriers to gender equality that exist in our industry.

Common Internal Barriers to Gender Diversity and Inclusion

A Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) study found that both men and women indicated that it is harder for women to succeed in the mineral sector.  In 2016, only 16% of jobs in the Canadian mineral industry were occupied by women. In the same year, the study found that women are more likely to leave the mineral industry at a higher rate than men and that women tend to have less positive experiences in mining workplaces. Unpacking the root causes of these issues is critical in achieving gender equality within the mineral sector. 

Common barriers for gender diversity and inclusion within a company include:

  • Workplace culture
  • Workplace (in)flexibility
  • Gender bias
How to Address These Barriers

Addressing the internal barriers to gender diversity and inclusion involves numerous steps and processes to recognize both the direct and latent functions of workplace policies and practices. These steps should be tailored to each company and take into account unique capacity and operational considerations. The following steps unpack how organizations can work to dismantle these key barriers.

  • Step 1: Assess the current state of diversity and inclusion and develop a baseline
  • Step 2: Inform company policies via Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+)
  • Step 3: Develop a diversity and inclusion strategy
  • Step 4: Provide on-going training and education
Gender Diversity and Inclusion Internal Barriers Self-Assessment

Addressing the internal barriers to gender diversity and inclusion involves numerous steps and processes to recognize both the direct and latent functions of workplace policies and practices. The self-assessment questions can help unpack your diversity and inclusion blind spots, while providing insights into strategies for measuring progress and fostering inclusion.

Gender Diversity and Inclusion in a Community Setting


Due to the significant role the mineral sector plays in a community in which it operates, understanding the ways that gender inequalities within the community can be reinforced by exploration and mining workplace practices is important. How the industry operates in a given community is a direct reflection of a company’s internal values and practice—whether intended or not. Without considering these realities, there can be business risks for your exploration and mining projects. The impacts, benefits and risks of mineral projects often manifest differently for men and women. Women experience more negative economic, social and environmental impacts than men, and, at the same time, have less access to benefits and compensation.

Common External Barriers to Gender Diversity and Inclusion

Many of the internal barriers to gender diversity and inclusion described in Part One are perpetuated within the mineral industry and can extend to the community setting. However there are many barriers which are uniquely linked to company-community relations. The following are a set of barriers specific to diversity and inclusion within a community setting:

  • Community safety and gender based violence
  • Engagement and consultation
  • Economic costs and benefits
  • Lack of diversity in the supply chain
How to Address these Barriers

The steps below set the stage for any exploration program or mining project to begin to operate with a more gender inclusive approach using internal company-wide policies, as well as developing strong community-company engagement practices. These steps can apply at any stage in the lifecycle of a project:

  • Step 1: Conduct a community gender impact assessment (GIA)
  • Step 2: Develop policies that address community safety
  • Step 3: Develop a gender inclusive consultation and community partnership approach
  • Step 4: Develop a local economic impact plan that supports women’s economic empowerment
  • Step 5: Involve men and boys
Applying a Gender Impact Assessment for Various Stages of the Mining Lifecycle

When undertaking and applying a gender impact assessment it is important to begin with some initial questions that can help to position your impact on a community in a way that strives to be more gender inclusive. The self-assessment can be used at various stages to help you consider your organization’s impact.