EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka
WOMEN are steadily rising to key positions at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) through an affirmative action recognising their important role to business growth.
A talentÂ identification and mentorship programme, initiated several years back, has beenÂ systematically implemented to promote women, says Chimango Chikwanda, the companyâ€™s vice president for human capital management.
KCM plans to increase from 11 percent to over 30 percent in the next three years the total number of women in the organisation.
â€œOur vision is to unlock the full potential of women,â€ Ms Chikwanda adds. â€œOur parent company Vedanta Resources has stepped up in this journey to ensure we have reasonable representation of women within the group and KCM is fully focused to achieve this goal.â€
Apart from increasing women representation in one of Africaâ€™s largest integrated copper producers, which employs around 12,000 people, an initiative set in motion by parent company Vedanta Resources, known as â€œKnow-Her,â€ is receiving traction.
â€œThe â€œKnow Herâ€ initiative will enable senior women executives within the group to be mentoring fellow women in order to build on our open and inspiring leadership culture,â€ Ms Chikwanda says. A lot of women will be identified through Talent Workshops. She knows that successful companies are looking for the best talent in an increasingly competitive industry.
So when women like Jacqueline Nanchengwa begin their shifts, they are alive to the equal opportunities KCM offers.
Ms Nanchengwa has spent over 10 years at KCM since she graduated from the Copperbelt University in Survey and Planning. Most of her time is spent underground at Nchanga Mine in her role as Senior Sectional Surveyor.
Apart from providing accurate data and information to other functions, she conducts accurate measurement of areas and volumes mined and precise representation of the surface and underground situation on mining plans.
â€œAs the only female in the presence of men, you tend to stand out a little bit more, but at the end of the shift, itâ€™s all about your attitude and how you perform your tasks,â€ she says.
Persistence brings success
â€œMy colleagues treat me with respect because I am able to do the same work they do,â€ she reflects. â€œKCM is breaking through the â€˜glass ceilingâ€™ for more women to become leaders.â€
As for Mambwe Lesa, an Instrumentation Engineer, persistence is the key to success.
A graduate in Instrumentation Engineering from Indiaâ€™s Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), Ms Lesa was one of young Zambians offered KCM scholarships to study abroad. Barely two years at KCM, she is already a Sectional Engineer at the Konkola Concentrator and seeks to see out her role as a management trainee with distinction.
She urges fellow women to be â€˜open-mindedâ€™ and focused in order to excel.
â€œThe management trainee programme has helped me to acquire knowledge on the scope of the mining and surface plants in relation to instrumentation,â€ Ms Lesa says.
Women like Agness Mofya Mwansa are flying high.
Ms Mwansa was seconded to Sterlite in India, a unit of Vedanta Resources for a skills transfer and leadership development programme, as maintenance instrumentation engineer in 2007. She now heads the Instrumentation and Automation department at KCM where she has worked for 11 years. Among her critical roles at the Tailings Leach Plant since 2012, has been to ensure that Instrumentation and Control equipment availability stands at above 95 percent.
â€œI am also in charge of identifying and implementing process improvement projects, spares management as well as manpower management,â€ she says.
Ms Mwansa holds a Masterâ€™s degree in Systems Control and Automation Engineering from a Dutch university and Bachelorâ€™s degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering with specialisation in Electronics and Telecommunications from the University of Zambia. She was recognised by the Zambia Association of University Women, for being the first female section engineer at KCM.
Sandra Kapendaâ€™s determination attests that hard work leads to higher places. She started off as an electrical artisan technician but now holds the place of the first woman at Nchanga underground mine to hold Government certification for Winding Engine driving.
Ms Kapenda regularly starts her day at 5:45am by carrying out a risk assessment before she commences operating winders that drive men underground and back to surface. This task, like many others, has no margin for error.
Men were astounded
â€œThe first days on the job, men couldnâ€™t believe a woman could operate the winders. I knew immediately that my performance on the job could have an impact â€¦ they would start viewing women differently,â€ says Ms Kapenda.
She says courage is critical for a woman to safely drive hundreds of men in and out of underground every day.
When Mildred Musonda, a Production Geologist who graduated from the University of Zambia and joined KCM in 2015, sits on her work station, her consciousness is all about guiding excavations using geological mapping and pilot drill holes at Konkola Mine in Chililabombwe.
Within two years at KCM, Ms Musonda already has the distinction of successfully managing underground diamond drilling in her section, which has significantly reduced the cost of drilling.
She is currently in charge of the Bancroft Deeps section at the flagship Konkola mine. She has also managed to guide underground geological excavations and mapping to ensure safe ground conditions for a safe working environment.
Philanthropy and mining
KCMâ€™s philosophy is anchored on a â€œhand that extends beyond mining.â€
In Lomantzi Mazyopa, a Community Liaison Officer, KCM has a passionate community worker.
The companyâ€™s CSR is anchored on four pillars â€“ education, health, sustainable livelihoods and sport.
Ms MazyopaÂ often wriggles her waist in unison with community members and her passion has not faded in the eight years she has been one of KCMâ€™s community liaison officers.
Her Development Studies degree from UNZA has never overshadowed her engagements with communities.
â€œI try to identify different ways I can work with others,â€ Lomantzi says. â€œBridging the gap between KCM and the community in which our company operates is the most important thing for me.â€
EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka