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Diversity and inclusivity in the resource sector - Is it time for quotas?

Mark Steeves reports following a City of London Geoscience Forum meeting earlier in the year, and asks: what would it take for diversity and social mobility to gain traction in the resource sector?

The third event in the CLGF’s series ‘Ethical Issues in the Extractive Industries’ was hosted by law firm Hogan Lovells at their London offices on Thursday 23 May 2019.  

diversity speakers
Speakers (l-r): Sir Geoff Palmer (chair), Fiona MacAulay, Michael Lynch Bell, Adelaide Ruiters, Nus Ghani MP, Ron Daniel, Mametja Moshe and Nichole McCulloch.

Chaired and moderated by Sir Geoff Palmer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, the panel comprised Fiona MacAulay, inter alia non-executive chair of Independent Oil & Gas, Michael Lynch Bell, inter alia NED of LSE listed KAZ Minerals, JSE listed Barloworld, and board member of Action Aid, Adelaide Ruiters of a South African mining company called ARME, Nus Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden, Ron Daniel, a geologist with Nexen CNOOC, Mametja Moshe of Johannesburg based advisory and investment firm Moshe Capital and Nichole McCulloch, Managing Director of Clifton Hill Associates and ex-President of Women in Mining.  It took six months to assemble such a diverse panel, which tells a story in itself.  

Not everyone on the panel was associated with our industry or our country.  Sir Geoff Palmer, is a prominent member of the ‘Windrush’ generation and shared some humbling but uplifting stories of his road to success (as did Ron Daniel).  Nus Ghani came to the UK from Pakistan, as a child.   The first woman in her family to have had a formal education, she is now a Conservative MP.  Together these two provided political and social context for the event.  Additionally, we heard from Mametja Moshe and Adelaide Ruiters who both benefited from South African Black Economic Empowerment legislation in that country.  The intention of the inclusion of these four ‘outsiders’ was to encourage discussion about legislation requiring positive discrimination.  

And indeed both Fiona MacAulay and Nichole McCulloch, expressed the opinion that the time may have arrived when quotas are necessary.  This then, for me, was the first take-away from the evening, leading me to ask this question of myself and readers of this report:

Is it Time for Quotas?

A recent report from ICSA: The Governance Institute, ‘A View at the Top’ (July 2019) showed a significant increase over the past twenty years of female representation on boards in the UK (rising from 4.1% in 1996 to 32.1% in November 2018 on FTSE 100 boards and 27.5% of the FTSE 250).  

Fiona MacAuley told us she is more concerned by the absence of women in senior positions than she is, necessarily, by the number on boards – and here the statistics are less positive. There has been slow progress on gender diversity in key decision making executive positions, with a rise from 1% of FTSE 100 executive roles in 1996 to only 3% in 2017. According to the report, the ‘UK’s Top 20 Most Admired Companies appearing in FTSE 100’ – who, interestingly, are more likely to feature diverse boards – included just one oil and gas company (Royal Dutch Shell) and no mining companies. 

Does Legislation Work?

Certainly it can.  Both of our South African contributors spoke about how they had benefited from Black Economic Empowerment legislation; a form of affirmative action launched by the South African government as part of efforts to redress the inequalities of Apartheid. 

Adelaide Ruiters told us of her ambition, as a direct consequence of the opportunities afforded her through BEE, to list her mining company, ARME, in London.  Mametja Moshe, CEO of Johannesburg based Moshe Capital, told us of her upbringing in Limpopo province, surrounded by mining operations and some of the world’s best platinum and chrome resources; but also of her early observation that white employees at the mines lived more comfortably than black employees.  Against this background, she benefited from the enlightened, long-established Anglo American scholarship programme which started under Harry Oppenheimer’s chairmanship of Anglo American (1957-1982).  Mametja’s private school was partially supported by Anglo American and she received an Anglo American bursary for her tertiary education.   

Mametja quoted extensively and instructively from The Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) South African Women in Leadership Census 2017  ( to illustrate how things are in South Africa:

• Percentage of female CEOs – 4.7% of Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies and 5% for State Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
• Percentage of female Chairpersons – 6.9% of JSE listed companies and 10% for SOEs
• Percentage of female directors – 19.1% of JSE listed companies and 41.2% of SOEs
• Percentage of female Executive Managers – 29.5% for JSE listed companies and 28.5% of SOEs
• The new South African Mining Charter requirement for female representation is 20% of board positions, 20% of executive management positions and 25% of senior management positions

Further ‘The race distribution of female directors at JSE listed firms is highly skewed in favour of black women.  Black women account for 58.7% of total directorships held by women at JSE-listed firms, while white women hold 21.9%.  Indian women hold 8.2% of women-held directorships, closely followed by coloured women (7.4%).’  For us though, in the geosciences, it’s instructive to read that ‘Oil & Gas has the lowest share of female representation on boards, at only 16.1%.  While … mining companies … has the third highest share of women on boards, at 20.3%.’

At the time the BWASA Women in Leadership Census was published, there were a remarkably diverse twenty countries from all parts of the world with legislation in place to favour women in the work place and on boards, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.  Another five were planning legislation: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Portugal and Singapore.   

There were notable absences from the list including the UK but also, for instance, the USA and Australia.  This doesn’t mean they’re doing nothing about gender equality.  

The UK does not have any kind of quota system in place but in April 2017 it became a legal requirement for companies to report on the pay differential between men and women.

Similarly, in the USA, there are no quotas but, for instance, all sorts of tax incentives to hire firms owned by women, Hispanics, African Americans, etc. 

Australia has a Workplace Gender Equality Agency and Australian listed companies are required to benchmark their progress against the recommendations provided by the Australian Corporate Governance Council, which includes recommendations on diversity, but which are not prescribed. 

South Africa is also not on the list.  A proposed Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill was challenged in parliament where it was said to duplicate other legislation and ‘sought to impose top-down manipulation through the use of quotas, rather than addressing structural inequality…’  (I quote from the BWASA census report).  In 2015 it was shelved.

Conclusion: let us at least have targets!

Many of our panellists shared stories of success against the odds; success that relied on a greater degree of good fortune than should be required to lead a fulfilling and happy life.  You shouldn’t need to be extraordinary, or lucky, to have a good crack at life.  If you’re qualified to do something and are good at it, there should be no obstacles in your way, institutionalised or otherwise.  We should be more meritocratic, encourage ambition, applaud winners and celebrate excellence.

But we are in danger of lagging behind the curve.  We need to be on the right side of history.  I’d like to think the UK is a country in which things like this happen over time, without legal enforcement, willingly, peacefully and as a matter of course. So: we need to reach out more to schools, all schools, in inner cities as well as elsewhere, and to girls as much as to boys. 

Heading into the event, my impression was that gender diversity in the geosciences is work in progress, whilst ethnic diversity is very close to being non-existent, and social mobility arguably less possible today than it has been at some points in the past.  I still hold to these preconceptions.  I am intuitively against quotas, but I am now persuaded that in some form or other action is necessary. 

We need stated targets, if not actual quotas.  

What cannot continue is failure in what Nichole McCulloch calls ‘The Dave Test’ (she tells a story about a company she was advising, where all the members of the board of were called Dave…).  Boards should be more diverse than they are, not just by gender or ethnicity, but also by experience, profession (fewer bankers and accountants, I would say) and general background.  What matters is greater opportunity and inclusivity from the birth of a life; any life.  More inclusive boards will happen naturally as the talent pool grows.  

At the event last May, there was no expressed opposition; in fact, apparently, general acceptance, that diversity is desirable. 

Diversity is not just desirable; it is essential.  I leave the last word to Sir Geoff Palmer who, after our event, sent me one of his favourite diversity quotes:

Different kinds of people are more likely, than one kind of people, to find solutions to problems.

Mark Steeves, Samphire & Associates Ltd, sits on the Geological Society Business Forum and Development Committee; e-mail: