Women in mining: a challenge to occupational culture in mines.

Benya, Asanda P.
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This study explores how women cope in response to the masculine occupational culture and physical demands of underground work in South African mines. The involvement of women underground in South African mines is a relatively new phenomenon. Increased numbers of women underground miners is the result of targets set by the Mining Charter. Nevertheless, mining companies seem to find it difficult to meet their targets due to a number of challenges related to challenging domains that are historically dominated by men. The research looks specifically at these challenges and the coping strategies employed by women in mining, taking into consideration the masculine mining work culture and the physical demands of the different mining occupations. Working underground is experienced differently by men and women, with men having more experience and having been fully integrated into the occupational culture of mines. Due to this gender difference in the workplace, challenges and coping mechanisms differ among genders. A research strategy of participant observation was used to study this new phenomenon at a platinum mine near Rustenburg. The study draws on labour market theories that link labour supply and demand through the socially embedded processes of labour incorporation, allocation, control and reproduction. These four processes are used to guide a systematic consideration of challenges and coping mechanisms of women mineworkers in each stage of the processes related to change in the labour market.