Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

People Little by little

Attitudes towards female co-workers are changing, says Karina Yanac, a heavy equipment operator at Barrick’s Pierina mine in Peru

Barrick has many accomplished women working in all areas of its operations. In the fourth of seven interviews with some of these women, we feature Karina Yanac, Multifunctional Operator at Barrick’s Pierina mine in Peru.

Yanac operates numerous pieces of heavy equipment, including backhoes, excavators and various trucks used at the mine site. She was born in San Miguel de Tinyash in Peru’s Ancash region, and joined Barrick in 2009 after being chosen to develop a training program for machine operators at Pierina. She holds an Environmental Engineering degree from Alas Peruanas University in Lima.

Beyond Borders: Why did you choose a career in mining?

Karina Yanac: From an early age, I took an interest in the industry. I felt a certain curiosity about the maintenance and operation of heavy equipment and since Peru’s mining industry was growing there were job opportunities, including opportunities for specialized professionals, so I decided to try it.

Is there someone who served as a mentor to you and what was the most important thing that you learned from them?

Yes! I’ve had mentors. They’re very important people for me. One of them is Aristaco Moreno, a mine engineer and my first manager. I learned many things from him. The most important, which I always remember, is that with effort, perseverance and the knowledge to take advantage of opportunities, each person can develop and advance. He also taught me to always keep learning.

The other person is Cecilio Rodriguez, a Mining Operations Supervisor at Pierina. He taught me how to handle the machines that I work with. What I appreciate most about him is that he not only takes the time to mentor young people, he seeks their input, which adds extra value to everything we do.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

This hasn’t been the greatest obstacle, but it’s definitely been one I’ve thought about a lot: gender imbalances. Some sexist supervisors have tried to challenge me simply because I’m a woman. They focused on superficial things – like my age and gender – but with time they saw what I’m capable of and gave me the opportunity to become part of the group.

At the same time, there is no preferential treatment simply because I’m a woman. We must all make the same efforts. When it comes to a work environment, gender, age, race or social standing should be irrelevant.

How has the industry changed in its approach and attitude towards diversity since you first entered the field?

I believe there has been a change. Little by little, attitudes towards women in the mining industry have evolved. At least that’s my experience at Pierina, where there are many other hard-working women. I think there was more sexism in the industry before. Men thought of us as weak, but that has changed as women have proven that they can deliver the same results at work. I’m confident there will be many more women in mining in the future.

What can the industry do better to accommodate change and diversity in your particular area of endeavor?

Being more egalitarian in the professional opportunities offered to both men and women, and tackling stereotypes about women’s ability to work in mining. I think those would be good first steps to bringing more women to the industry.

What are some things that have surprised you about being a woman in a male dominated field?

During my seven years at Pierina, I’ve been surprised to see how the operation has destroyed the myth that this was a men-only industry. Leaving behind sexist stereotypes, it has offered equal opportunities to women. As a woman, it also surprises me in a way to see that we are as capable as men. I must say that it didn’t take me long to adapt to working with my male colleagues, although for some of them it took longer to get used to me. But with time they have adapted to the change and began to treat me like another team member. We spend a lot of time together and that makes us feel like a family. To a certain extent, we treat each other like siblings; we’re so close that sometimes we end up mimicking each other’s slang and gestures. It’s impressive to see that my area is known for the unity that exists between the genders. The men really value the work that I do, and I think that because I’m the only woman on the team they value it even more.

What advice would you give to women considering mining as a career?

Mining is a difficult field for women, but it’s not impossible to build a career in it. My main advice would be to keep going. Women can do the same job as men. There aren’t any real reasons that should stop women from working in a mine.