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"I will always remember the first female senior geologist I reported to. It was only then that I believed I could do it too," says Niamh McMunn, Senior Geologist at our Gruyere mine in Western Australia.
Niamh worked at Gold Fields St Ives mine as a Geologist between 2016 and 2017. In 2019 she returned to the company and was appointed to her current position. She is involved in Women in Mining Western Australia (WIMWA) and a certified Change Leader, helping to bring diversity of thought to her team.
For International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021, we spoke to Niamh about working in this field and why we need more women in science.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in a field focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)?
I've always been interested in the way things work and understanding processes. I knew leaving high school that I wanted to continue in the field of science. Geology seemed like a great mix of physical and natural sciences.
Why do you believe we need more women in STEM fields?
The more diverse a workforce, the more creative it can be and bring the best out of people. STEM has historically been a very male-dominated area and there is no reason why there shouldn't be more women in these fields. We need to encourage young women and girls to follow their passion and interests.
You are involved in Women in Mining Western Australia (WIMWA). Why are you passionate about advancing gender equality in the mining industry?
When I started working as a geologist, I was very often the only woman in the team. When you don't see someone like you in a role, it can be very hard to imagine yourself in that position. Just like me, other women and girls need to be able to see themselves in these positions and not feel limited by what has come before them.
I have been very lucky to have had two great mentors through WIMWA. In 2021 I'm giving back and will be a mentor to a woman in mining.
In your experience is Gold Fields an empowering place for women to work, especially in the STEM fields?
My experience in Gold Fields has been great. On both the sites I have worked at there have been great female leaders and peers to look up to, ask for advice and just to talk to. However, I think there is a lot more we can do in the mining industry to make women feel more empowered.
What changes do you believe our industry can make?
I think there needs to be a more targeted approach with girls, right from when they start school. We should show girls and boys that science is interesting and is the foundation of how we live day to day. Visiting schools and universities, showing people what a geologist, engineer or metallurgist does is important too.
We should be looking internally too - our people at Gold Fields are our biggest resource and we should be using that to our advantage.