Women in mining are a scarce commodity. Traditionally male-dominated, the mining sector lags behind comparable industries, with women making up just 8 to 17% of the global mining workforce, according to research by a global consulting firm.

It’s a reality that Theresia Malobela, Exploration Manager at the Twin Hills Gold Project in Namibia, owned by Canadian company Osino Resources, understands all too well.

“I am fortunate to work for a company that actively values and promotes women and prioritises work and performance,” she comments. Nevertheless, she says it can be hard to enter such a male-dominated industry and succeed – as she has done.

Speaking recently to women considering a career in the mining industry, Malobela said that women need to support one another and be prepared to be seen and heard.

“Don’t feel shy to speak out, ask questions or to make a mistake, as we learn from our mistakes and move confidently forward,” she says, adding that women can “do the talking” through the quality of their work, helping to demonstrate to men that women are also capable of doing any job for which they have been trained.

“I’ve worked hard to make sure my deliverables were met, which speaks volumes about my capability,” she says, adding that male subordinates have come to respect her because of her work ethic and professionalism.

The eldest of four siblings, Malobela was born in Tanzania but grew up in Windhoek, Namibia. As the exploration manager, she manages and supervises all exploration work in and around the Twin Hills Gold Project. The work is complex and requires her to be able to manage multiple stakeholders.

She says that the characteristics that have been most instrumental to her success include always being willing to take up challenges and novel tasks and not allowing doubt to scare her away.

“For example, in 2021, we had a huge drilling assignment, with up to 12 rigs on site, and we had to process all the samples for lab analysis. I accepted the challenge, and when I got stuck, I asked for help. As a result, we managed to meet the deadlines!”

She comments that asking for help and being honest are both critical to success, as is creating a strong support network to help you juggle home and professional responsibilities. “As a mother, a great support system is crucial and also having friends or someone that is in a similar boat to talk to and bounce off ideas is great.

“Additionally, I believe telling your supervisor or manager your needs as a mother is important, as they become aware of what you can and cannot do,” she says.
Malobela says she initially wanted to study astronomy but ended up doing geology instead. “I did not like my first year in university; worse, I hated geology. I was thinking of changing courses in my first year until we went on a field trip with my now mentor, and I fell in love with geology.”

She is glad she did. It is a privilege to be a pioneer in an industry like mining, she says. “I think we are moving forward, and the mindset that women are beneath men or that they cannot do as well as their male counterparts is slowly phasing out, and more opportunities are becoming available for both men and women.”