October is Global Diversity Awareness Month — an occasion that seeks to highlight and celebrate different cultures and ethnicities. At Exxaro, diversity also means empowering all employees regardless of their gender, race or background. This is especially important if we’re aiming to create an impact on society in line with our purpose of “powering better lives in Africa and beyond”.
We also know that the best practice for boosting innovation and performance is connecting people from different backgrounds, who bring with them fresh perspectives. It’s because of this that, throughout the year, Exxaro hosts company-wide events to discuss and empower new programmes and initiatives that promote an all-inclusive, open, and connected culture. Our slogan of “One Exxaro for all” is always at the heart of the various initiatives we implement across the organisation.
As we prepare for the event, one thing becomes abundantly clear — Exxaro is using innovation and digitally enabled solutions as catalysts to drive diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Workforce transformation journey
Exxaro employees comprise a myriad of local, skilled and talented individuals across the country. By introducing diverse stakeholder perspectives, we have been able to remain alert to opportunities in the rest of Africa and beyond.
We recognise the importance of employment equity in achieving targets set by the Mining Charter and B-BBEE Act. We have set up various inclusive committees to provide input and support to create an Exxaro that’s sustainable, inclusive, and diverse by creating business value beyond compliance requirements.
Our policies guide our behaviour towards diversity and inclusion, of which gender equality is a key focus pillar for us. We are dedicated and committed to achieving workforce transformation with determination, and to lead in an inclusive manner.
To continue driving gender mainstreaming and the transformation process, Exxaro has invested in development programmes to educate, raise awareness, and train employees regarding their responsibilities in this area. As a business, we remain focused on women empowerment: more specifically, promoting gender equality, representation, and participation in internal decision-making. We plan to achieve this by leveraging global best practices from organisations such as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Commission for Gender Equality, and implementing measures to create an enabling environment for gender mainstreaming.
Currently women make up 22% of the workforce at Exxaro, with plans in place to increase this number significantly. To further encourage a conducive work environment for women, we commit to all management and specialist categories being 50% female by 2025.
As a proud corporate citizen, our organisation has the critical responsibility of not only promoting gender equality in the workplace, but also doing what we can to stop gender-based violence (GBV). We have a zero-tolerance GBV policy and are actively involved in supporting the Minerals Council South Africa’s GBV campaign. We will continue to host activations across our mines to raise awareness around GBV and galvanise positive change among our employees and the communities in which we operate.
Diversity and inclusion strategy
As Exxaro continues its transformation, we have developed and adopted a diversity and inclusion strategy as a key imperative for the business to derive value from the varied talent and thinking we have at our disposal.
To ensure a resilient, sustainable and impactful strategy, four focus areas were identified, each of which have since been assigned to task teams that are cross-functional and intellectually diverse.
While each differs in purpose, all four areas aim to create a more flexible workplace, which will allow for a thriving workforce and community where everybody is treated equally and respected for their contribution. All of them also reaffirm our commitment to eradicating any forms of unfair discrimination in our policies, practices, and behaviour at all levels of the organisation.
People with disabilities
A focus area worth mentioning is one that aims to promote disability inclusivity throughout our operations. This includes establishing employee resource groups or networks that create internal and external awareness around disability. New employees will also need to go through disability awareness training as part of their onboarding process.
Often, it’s a lack of understanding or appreciation of another’s circumstances that leads to a non-inclusive workforce. Exxaro therefore plans to develop specific guidelines and e-learning modules to assist employees to understand the issues faced by people with disabilities.
Using international days that highlight and celebrate people with disabilities is another way Exxaro plans to promote inclusivity and understanding.
While the integration of teamwork is key to driving diversity and inclusion, the reality is that it starts at a leadership level. We can’t expect our staff or stakeholders to promote diversity and inclusion if it’s not being represented from above.
The board’s skills diversity has also been broadened beyond technical mining to include innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, corporate finance, sustainable development and energy. Going forward, both online diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership awareness training, will be rolled out for our board members.
At Exxaro, our strategic aspiration is to create an inclusive environment through our leadership and culture by addressing inequalities. It’s important to consider that we all have the power to create better lives in Africa and beyond. All it takes is prioritising and practising what’s important to us. It’s time we call for action!
Vanisha Balgobind is Executive Head of Human Resources at Exxaro
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