Interview with Maria Lodkina
Maria Lodkina, Director of Financial Control and Corporate Reporting at the gold mining company Polymetal, together with her colleagues, launched the international project Women in Mining Russia — the giants Nornickel and Deloitte have already joined the association for supporting women in the mining industry.
We can see from the title of the Women in Mining (WIM) project that this is definitely about women, but more details are needed.
Women in Mining is a global organization that supports women in the mining industry around the world. Its European headquarters is in London. Polymetal is very closely connected with the British capital: we have one of the offices there, our shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange, I personally deal with the company’s reports according to international standards. Naturally, we have been in touch with WIM UK for a long time. Moreover, in 2018, the association included my colleague and like-minded person in Russian WIM Daria Goncharova in the rating of “100 inspiring women in the mining industry”. But, frankly, we noticed that WIM in the UK is somewhat behind the scenes and includes more social activists, managers and women leaders in general, but this is not enough to develop ideas. Then the idea was born to make a similar project in Russia, but with serious integration into the industry.
What are the goals of the WIM project in Russia?
First, to fight global stereotypes about the extractive “male” industry. For many, our industry evokes un-agile, unfashionable, conservative images. And one of the tasks here is to show students who will soon graduate from specialized universities that we are open, modern and convenient for the realization of their talents and ambitions, and gender is definitely not important here. Secondly, WIM is the professional and career development of women in the extractive industry based on the examples of successful colleagues from the industry: and this applies not only to managers, but also to specialists who work in narrow areas. Thirdly, it is important to get the industry off the ground in general, so we are interested in cooperation with large companies aimed at working with gender stereotypes in their own country.
So far, the metallurgical industry in Russia is dominated by men, and of course, in top management. How did you manage to sell a woman’s idea to men?
To begin with, the idea was born at Polymetal, where I have been since 2013. We generally live by Western standards. As an issuer of the London Stock Exchange and a major player in the global market, we must meet the highest requirements in all respects, including social responsibility. And the WIM project has been in the air for a long time, especially since Polymetal is one of the leaders in the gender agenda in Russia. By the way, my colleague Daria and I are to some extent an example of success in a predominantly male team.
That is, this is not a tribute to trends, but still your internal setting?
I’m lying if I say that we didn’t think about global trends. But in this case, it is an unconditional mix, including inner aspirations and lifestyle. In general, in order to launch a volunteer social project, in general, it must mature and form well inside. After all, it’s not enough just to take and say “let’s talk about a woman”—you need to build an action plan, formulate goals, objectives, meanings, and a clear mission. So something worthwhile can really turn out, otherwise it will only be words.
Did you quickly find a common language with Norilsk Nickel and Deloitte consulting company?
Since we initially wanted to unite the entire industry around these ideas, our team met with representatives of most large companies to see if the girls would be interested in participating in the project on a personal or corporate level. After that, Norilsk Nickel contacted us directly. It was the first brand that did not yet know all the details, but had already decided to support the project. They very quickly entered WIM, Deloitte joined at the same time, and we began to formalize everything legally, going into the public space.
Was it not scary to immediately aim at entering the industry — beyond the borders of the native Polymetal, where the walls help?
From the very beginning it was clear to us that we needed collaboration with colleagues. Now is the time for open communication, open forms, discussions and round tables. This is the moment when the association and exchange of experience will play a plus for the industry as a whole. Because, in addition to diversity and gender balance, we are also talking about the younger generation and people with thinking without borders, whom we want to see among our colleagues. And there are many of us: in a few months, 10 partner companies have already joined WIM.
How do you plan to implement your ideas?
To begin with, we want to tell our female colleagues about those who have achieved success in the industry, regardless of gender. But do not think that we are betting on the field of management, where it is easiest to meet a girl in a leadership position. There are a lot of participants in our pool who have come to recognition at enterprises and fields. A very important part of the work is the regions: the Magadan Region, the Khabarovsk Territory, Yakutia, and the entire Far East in general. Traditionally, everything is quite conservative there, but we want to show that girls and women can well combine family, home, children and career. And at Polymetal, for example, all the conditions have been created for this: it’s not for nothing that we are among the top ten leading companies for the professional development of women