A mine seems like an unusual setting for a children's book, but Theresa Nyabeze thinks it is the perfect place to teach lessons about diversity in workplaces.
Nyabeze, a front-line supervisor at Vale, was at Dynamic Earth in Sudbury on May 19 to launch her book, Underground! My Mining Adventure, reading to a group of Grade 2 and 3 students and talk about how the book is a tool to open up the mining industry to women and girls.
“I want to encourage more women to to go into the mining industry. I know a lot of strong women who would be great miners,” she said in a phone interview. She said mining is still perceived as a dangerous and male-dominated vocation.
By writing a children's book, where the main characters are a mother and child, she says she hopes she can show that it is a safe and rewarding career choice, as well as help mining companies engage stakeholders in a way they can understand. The story centres around a mother who brings her daughter to work to show her how fun and rewarding a job in the mining sector can be not just for children, but for anyone considering mining as a second career, or anyone unfamiliar with mining.
“For a woman, a strong mother, to bring her child to a mine shows it is safe, especially for girls,” she said.
The book parallels her real-life experiences as a mining engineer and mother. Her daughter Chiedza was the inspiration for the main character and both have been to at Dynamic Earth and Totten Mine, during Vale family days.
The event started with a quick safety message from retired career underground miner Michael Vanderhooft, who stressed the importance of bike safety and wearing helmets while riding this summer. The children then gathered with Nyabeze for an interactive experience in the reading nook of Explora Mine.
As she read passages, children in the group volunteered to hold up large illustrations of the book and opened a big red box full of child-sized mining equipment. Afterwards, they took their newly acquired knowledge for more hands-on experiences around the centre.
“This is an amazing opportunity for her (Nyabeze) as she gets to share her passion for mining and earth sciences with a younger generation,” said Jennifer Beaudry, senior manager at Dynamic Earth. “It's a great way to show students how amazing the mining sector is.”
She said writing a children's book on mining is an innovative and unique way to show the many facets of the mining industry, adding the way it is laid out is well done. “The beautiful images, the messaging, we couldn't be more proud of Theresa.”
Using the Explora Mine to help launch the book is a perfect fit, Beaudry said. Students can learn all the different steps involved in mining in a cozy environment with interactive-scale model activities.
Nyabeze, a career engineer, said when she came to Canada from Zimbabwe with her family in 1990 she studied engineering at Laurentian University, adding she had many strong role models and professors that encouraged her along the way.
While there are no physical barriers, there are few women in the mining workforce. According to a 2014 study by Global Mining Standards and Guidelines, women women make up five to 10 per cent of the international mining workforce and only seven per cent serve on board positions. After 15 years in the industry, she says she sees no reason women cannot be a part of the workforce underground.
The book also coincides with her other passions: mentorship and outreach.
“I wanted a unique way to do outreach,” she said. “Mining has a diversity goal, but their needs to be other methodology to get more people from different backgrounds.”
While writing this book, she founded Diversity STEM, a foundation created to get more students to consider the science and technology sectors, as a career path.
Misheck Manasa Matambanadzo, an artist and commercial illustrator from her hometown in Harare, Zimbabwe, illustrated the book.
This is the first of a series of books showcasing mining, Nyabeze said.
Copies of Underground! My Mining Adventure are available for sale for $17.99 at www.diversitystem.ca.