In the seventh, and final, interview of this series featuring some of the accomplished women who work across Barrick's operations, we feature Kimin Chonjo Rodriguez, a heavy equipment operator at Barrick's Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic.
Rodriguez began working at Pueblo Viejo in January 2012. Prior to working at the mine, she had struggled to find a stable job in her native town of Bonao. After four years at Pueblo Viejo, Rodriguez, a mother of two young children, says with conviction that mining gives women a chance to prove that they're capable of doing more than they're often credited for. Mining, she says, can transform women's lives.
Beyond Borders: Why did you choose a career in mining?
Kimin Chonjo Rodriguez: I chose it because I love mining. I always thank God for the job I have, because it has changed my life dramatically; it has allowed me to grow both personally and financially. For instance, a bit more than four years ago, prior to joining Barrick, I didn't know how to drive. Now, I'm a heavy equipment operator.
I also met my husband at Barrick. He worked at the mine as well but in a different area. Unfortunately, we lost him a few months ago due to a car accident that occurred outside of work. I'm always grateful for having met him because he was an excellent husband and father. My family and my job give me the strength to keep moving forward.
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 many mentors. Most of them have been my supervisors. I recall one of them in particular. He trained me when I first joined the mine. The course he taught evaluated our capacities, and I remember he always encouraged me by saying things like: "Keep going! You can do it!" He had confidence in my abilities, and he taught me many things about the importance of appreciating the work I do and the effort I put into it.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
Fortunately, I've never faced an obstacle I can't overcome. There have been challenges but I've learned something from each of them. Operating heavy equipment was certainly a challenge at the beginning. I remember my first day, when they showed me what I would be doing: they took me to the field to see the oversized equipment and they asked if I wanted to go on it. It was a tough moment because I was nervous, but I said: "Yes, I can do it!" And I did step inside the machine.
How has the industry changed in its approach and attitudes towards diversity since you entered the field?
Very positively, I would say. Barrick has opened the door for many women. You can find them working in all areas and all levels within the organization. As a woman, I find this empowering, because it shows that we can achieve success in an entrepreneurial industry like mining regardless of our gender.
What can the industry do to better accommodate change and diversity in your particular area of endeavor?
My perspective is only based on what I've experienced at Barrick, and I think that so far they have done an excellent job. I would say that they should continue welcoming women and keep up what they've been doing until now.
What are some of the things that have surprised you about being a woman in a male-dominated field?
Seeing that women are as capable as men to do any job. I've also been pleasantly surprised by my family's level of support. I remember the day I drove my first truck: I came home, told my relatives about it and they couldn't believe it. My mom in particular has been extremely supportive. She always told me I would be able to do it.
There are still times when people express astonishment after I tell them about my job, because many still consider it to be for men only. I feel very proud of saying that I can do it too.
What advice would you give to women considering mining as a career?
Keep chasing your dreams; keep going because women can do it too. We have the strength and capacity to fight for the well-being of our families. I'd invite them to keep forging their path and not to give up, because building a career in this industry is definitely worth it. Feeling that we're valued and that we can do something for our personal growth is invaluable.