Partners in Performance is an international consulting firm of business improvement experts. Its Africa practice focuses on the mining and resources sector, where consultants help clients improve safety, increase production, lower costs, and optimise capex. As part of Women in Mining Month, the Mining Review Africa team caught up with the firm’s managing director and four of their female consultants.
Skipp Williamson, Managing Director
The challenges faced by women in mining have changed noticeably over the past decade and most often for the better. Much of this is thanks to all the great women in the industry (women like Christine, Carmen, Ziningi and Katherine from Partners in Performance Africa), who are creating tangible, positive impact for clients and paving the way for other women to succeed and thrive. There is still a big challenge ahead of us in how to build on this progress and encourage much higher rates of female participation at all levels, including more women in senior positions, C-suite and Boards.
Supporting women in mining is about more than just doing the right thing by all people – it’s about bringing a greater diversity of perspectives and skills to the industry. This, in turn, increases company capability, leading to improved productivity, making more room for innovative thinking, and ultimately increasing the bottom line. As a firm, we’re constantly striving to create this sort of work environment by creating more flexibility for our people (both female and male) to manage their families and home lives, ensuring they understand how unconscious bias can affect our behaviour, making it safe for them to speak up when they see someone being excluded or demeaned based on their gender, and supporting female networks where women can discuss the challenges they are facing and how we as a firm can address them together.
Christine Janse van Rensburg
Since joining Partners in Performance over five years ago, I’ve had some incredible experiences working with mining clients across Africa. My favourite engagements have been those where we get to spend a lot of time with the client and it starts to feel like we’re a part of their team. I work with the client to get results, no matter if it’s inconvenient and unglamorous. I once spent an entire shift on an underground drill rig with the operator, but that was key to unlocking major savings for the client.
Balancing the desire to be a brilliant consultant, but also an involved mother and present wife, sister and friend can be tough. I’m thankful that my leaders have been prepared to have the conversation and see how they can make this work for me. After having my daughter and returning from maternity leave, we worked together to develop creative solutions that would keep me close to my family, while also providing the challenges and opportunities to grow my career. Flexibility isn’t a problem you solve once – the solution will continue to grow as my circumstances change and I’m thankful to work with people who are open to solving the problem together.
I’ve been at Partners in Performance for just over five years, working with mining clients from all across Africa to help them improve their operational readiness, safety strategies and overall business performance. For me, the work we do here is second to none. I love being able to work hand-in-hand with the client towards a common goal and solving interesting problems in a range of environments. Being part of the journey and seeing how even the smallest positive change can have a lasting impact on individuals is the best part.
The leadership team are serious about understanding the challenges that female consultants face and creating an inclusive environment that is still able to foster our professional growth as we go through different life stages. We have been given a platform to engage with other women in business to learn from their experiences and obtain advice on how they have balanced family life and their careers. We have attended women-centric training workshops that are focused on teaching us skills that will enable for us to speak up confidently. As a new mother, our staffing team has been amazing in ensuring that I am staffed on local engagements that are close to home and family. Mining is still a male-dominated industry, but we are slowly changing this, one woman at a time. It is a challenging environment but tonnes of fun!
One of the highlights in my career as a consultant has been helping a client achieve a $50/oz cost reduction by creating a financial model that was used across their 11 international sites to manage costs against budget. Getting to drive and help implement this sort of positive change is incredibly satisfying – and just one of the reasons I love my work at Partners in Performance.
Working as a female consultant in mining isn’t always easy. I’m grateful that my team has created an environment where it is safe for us to speak up and raise our concerns. I’ve seen firsthand how the leadership teams listens to these concerns and puts actions in place to ensure our working environments are safe and respectful. The firm has also been supportive of my ‘new role’ as being a mother to my little girl. They offered me a digital consulting role enabling me to work from home while still being challenged mentally. It starts with creating a safe and open culture where women can talk about the barriers we’re facing without fear of how this will affect our career progression. It’s great to work for a firm that genuinely cares about building this sort of culture.
I’m a consultant at Partners in Performance – which means on any given day I could be coaching the client on how to implement our tools, designing improvements and helping the client to implement them, analysing data, running Idea Generation Sessions, and basically anything that needs to be done in order to achieve significant, lasting results. Currently I’m working on an engagement at a gold mine in Ghana.
As a woman in mining, the biggest issue for me is feeling like an outsider. Being the only female on site can be quite lonely and isolating. Partners in Performance has been great with arranging workshops for the women here to build skills and come up with workable solutions to the issues we face. We’re trying to develop a network of women within the region to support each other, and I know I can message our People and Culture team for advice at any time. A lot of our male colleagues have expressed an interest in learning how they can better support us and be allies when it’s needed. When uncomfortable situations arise, I can stand up for myself and know that my team and my leaders are 100% behind me. Being able to share our experiences as female consultants in the industry has helped me understand I’m not alone.
Want to work with these talented female consultants? Contact Partners in Performance Recruitment Manager Cheryl Gardner – firstname.lastname@example.org / +27 82 923 7805.