Public perception and a diverse workforce – the WIM USA conference

Nov. 19, 2021


University of Arizona students at the WIM conference in Salt Lake City 2021
Xenia De Gracia (2nd from right) and Kate Willa Brown (far right) with (from left) Mario Muñoz, Donna Morey, and Megan Zivic

In October 2021, a group of students from UArizona traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend the Women in Mining USA Annual Conference “Changing The Face Of Mining”. Boasting mining industry professionals from all types of mining organizations and business functions, the conference was focused on influencing the public perception to attract a more diverse workforce and reflecting on how a more diverse workforce can in turn change the public perception.

Two of the attendees share their impressions, Kate Willa Brown, Mining and Geological Engineering, and Xenia De Gracia, Master's Student in Hydrology.

Xenia: “Diversity brings representation to everybody, no matter our differences in gender, ethnicity, or religion: in that way we avoid having a biased and unfair society because it's better to fight for equity instead of just fighting for equality in our diverse society. In the mining industry, the more women we are, the more we can support each other through this kind of initiatives. And we can advocate for better equity policies in the mining industries in areas like education outreach, leadership, protection gear specifically in women’s sizes, and harassment.”

Kate: “The WIM USA annual conference is the only dedicated space for women and allies to discuss the importance of gender diversity in the mining industry. While the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & exploration (SME) has worked to include more women speakers in the past few years to discuss barriers to women's success in the mining industry, WIM USA promotes a peer-to-peer methodology to directly address these barriers. Mining remains very much a boys' club, making it difficult for women to advance within the industry. With companies implementing targets for gender diversity, this boys' club attitude may eventually reduce in the next 50-60 years. Although WIM is heavily focused on women in the mining industry, the conference also reconciles how race plays into the American mining industry, and allows individuals and firms to begin to address racial and gender disparities at the same time.”

While the conference was also offered for virtual attendance, both Xenia and Kate appreciated the in-person networking. They were able to speak with faculty at various Universities as well as WIM board members, consultants, members of students chapters, advisors, and people in mining companies, like managers, geologists, and all the variety of disciplines that the Mining industry has. Xenia even found a professor of an old colleague when she used to work in Panama for a copper mine.

Besides the networking, the three conference days were filled with round-table discussions, panels, and workshops. Xenia’s favorite workshop: “I really liked the Leading with Empathy workshop where we could learn about understanding better others' points of view and that as we all want to be leaders, we have to practice empathy, not just with our people in charge, but also with our supervisors.”

Xenia’s advice to future conference attendants: “Be prepared to talk, share your opinions, and be listened to. Sometimes we can feel self-conscious about talking in front of people with those amazing professional backgrounds, but once you experience the satisfaction of contributing to these kinds of initiatives, no-one can stop you from being part of these movements.” Kate adds: “Seize any opportunity possible - the professional gains from attendance are often more valuable than any class or internship. WIM USA is a great conference to attend, especially because it allows students to join a still rather grassroots movement to empower women and gender diverse individuals in the mining industry.”

More information on the WIM conference:

Watch the keynote and panels

See photos and read participant feedback

The Next WIM USA Conference will be in Tucson AZ, in April/May 2023