Female leaders are forging the way for other women, providing inspiration and advocating for gender equality in the mining industry. This Women’s Month in South Africa, we caught up with inspirational women leaders who are making their mark in their field. One such woman is Raksha Naidoo, the MD of AMIS Group. She spoke to us about her experience as a female leader in the mining industry, the gender bias that exists, women who inspire her professionally, and more. She also has some great advice for women wanting to further their careers in the industry.

Read the interview with Raksha below.

Raksha Naidoo on being a female leader in the mining sector

1. What is your current role & industry?

I am the Managing Director of the AMIS Group and current Deputy Chairperson of Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA).

2. What is it like being a woman in the mining sector?

This industry continues to be very male-dominated, and as a [woman] leader in a male-dominated space, there are many challenges, good and bad. It is imperative to develop a thick skin, always be two steps ahead, have a strong support base, continuously learn, and stand up for what is right. The role of mentors, coaches, and sponsors is very important in the career journey, but it is also important for you to take control of your own development and move forward. 

Organisations like WiMSA, the Minerals Council, and the industry as a whole continue to do a lot of work that has allowed [women] to move forward through this challenge. It requires all stakeholders and leaders of the industry to come together so that we can break the biases that exist.  

The hard work that women continue to put in, and the successes that we achieve in this industry, come with many scars and battle wounds, and we fight for our recognition and seat at the table.

3. What do you wish you knew when you were 20 years old?

At 20 years old, I was bright-eyed and very trusting. I wish I could have read people better, which would have helped me better understand the working world. Not everyone has your back, not everyone has your best interest at heart, and not everyone is kind. 

The hard lessons I learned throughout the years have definitely made me stronger and forced me to take tighter control of my future and my career journey, and become more self-sufficient. 

4. Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

Yes, every day! As part of the Women in Mining South Africa community, I have been fortunate to meet so many industry superstars who I get to draw inspiration from daily, as well as all the amazing women in my teams, whose strength and bravery continuously motivate and inspire me. It honestly would be unfair to choose just one. 

5. Which of your personal traits/qualities are you proud of /that you think helps you to succeed?

Endurance, perseverance and never giving up, even though I can’t see the finish line. I am also proud that I am me, authentically me no matter what, and I think that’s helped me lead better every day.

6. What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?

I have had many proud moments at AMIS. I stepped into the role of MD with many eyes watching, waiting for me not to succeed and I worked extremely hard to prove them all wrong. Not only did AMIS succeed, but we grew to become a global leader in our sector of the mining industry. Last year, we acquired one of our global competitors in Canada and further cemented AMIS’s presence on a global scale.

But my proudest AMIS moments are around the successes of my teams. Watching people’s careers grow, [seeing them] develop the confidence to shine bright and reach professional and personal milestones, gives me the greatest sense of joy and pride!

7. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Sadly, there are quite a few. We, as women, create a lot of these barriers against ourselves that come from a lack of confidence, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and a longer list. Then there are the societal barriers: barriers created by stakeholders who question our competence and capabilities, [as well as barriers] that industries or organisations implement just because they believe that “[women] can’t lead”.

8. How do you balance your career, personal life, and passions? Is there such a thing as work-life balance?

I think balance is the goal, and something we all try to achieve as best we can. Some days I get it right, and some days I fail horribly. For the most part, I think I juggle life well, and I am very deliberate and intentional about how I spend my time. But the juggling is only possible because I have an incredibly supportive and encouraging husband, who has helped me achieve many career goals, as well as supports my passion projects. Without him, I know I would never be where I am, and I am grateful for him every day.

9. What do you do to take care of yourself?

My faith, family, friends, and football all are my happy place. I enjoy reading to completely escape and calm my mind, and watching repeat episodes of my favourite series always help too.

10. How can we stop gender bias?

By not creating these biases. Full stop. These biases are human-created, and humans allow them to continue. As a society, we just have to be better and do better, stop the bias, and break what already exists.

11. Do you experience resistance when you are leading men? How do you deal with it?

Men in my teams are collaborative. We have a culture that does not see gender biases and is a culture of equality, which is something I have worked hard to build. 

At superior levels, I have experienced many challenges. I have phenomenal sponsors and mentors. I have also found myself with seniors where my competence and abilities are always in the spotlight. I work harder every time I stand up for what I believe in, and I fight always on fact, never on emotion. This is an ongoing journey. 

12. Advice to women in South Africa: How would you encourage women not to give up?

One of the greatest strengths that we have as women, is that we are female. We need to use that superpower, and show up no matter what, no matter where. Life will always be difficult, and we will always find bumps in the road. But it’s the choices that we make and how we navigate ourselves that will always make us better, stronger, and more successful. Always believe in yourself, you are your greatest superhero!

We are highlighting and speaking to several inspirational South African women leaders in honour of Women’s Month 2022 in the country. Along with Raksha, each of these individuals is changing the game, transforming their respective industries, and opening the way for other women professionals.

If you want to be inspired by more female leaders, see what Megan du Plooy, Linda Diedericks, and Rumisha Motilal each had to say about their careers, leadership, gender biases, and more.

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