International Women's Day: How women are shaping the aluminium industry
Diversity drives future vision, Dr Fiona Solomon, CEO of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, is convinced. But as far as female leaders in the aluminium industry are concerned, there is a need to catch up. The ASI is already leading the way here - it is already strongly positioned with women today. An interview on International Women's Day.
Dr Solomon, the aluminum industry is dominated by men. What does that mean in concrete terms for your day-to-day work?
Dr Fiona Solomon: Like most metal and mining industries, there is indeed a general lack of diversity in the aluminium industry. However at ASI, we are fortunate to have strong representation of women among the ASI Board, ASI Standards Committee and Secretariat. There also seems to be an increasing participation of women in environmental, sustainability and human rights type roles in member and stakeholder organisations - bringing them into ASI's orbit.
ASI's mission is about creating change, so you include gender in your Standards. But how do you keep them up to date?
We have further expanded the focus on this area in our current Standards Revision process, which is currently out for stakeholder consultation. We encourage everyone interested in gender - and indeed all other sustainability issues - to contribute to our Standards Revision consultation. (Find more information: https://aluminium-stewardship.org/asi-standards-revision/)
What appeals to you about working in this industry?
The aluminium industry includes many people genuinely passionate about the metal and its applications, and the potential for it to contribute to positive change at a society level. This creates a sense of energy and alignment with ASI's work, and we have seen strong uptake of the ASI Certification Program and growth in ASI membership year on year. We are also building a terrific team within the ASI Secretariat. This growing momentum makes me excited to be a part of something bigger, with so many stakeholders seeking to push in similar directions.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in the aluminum industry?
Women face a range of barriers in many workplaces, and it can take a long time for cultures to change. Issues can include gender stereotypes that discourage entry to certain industries, pay gaps, lack of female leaders and mentors, lack of flexible work practices and childcare options (for men and women) and, unfortunately, still blatant sexism at times. What is the most critical challenge at a given time and place can vary, and sometimes historical disadvantage or discrimination cannot be easily undone later in terms of its impact. It's critical that organisations think carefully about how they can nurture genuinely inclusive workplace cultures.
How do you think the role of women has evolved recently or will continue to evolve?
We are seeing more female leaders, but these are still the exception rather than the norm. It can take a long time for a pipeline to take new entrants to the industry into leadership roles, particularly if they are coming in at a kind of graduate level. So the work to create our future women leaders needs to already be happening.
Why does the aluminum industry need more women?
There are many studies that show that gender (and other diversity) strongly correlates with improved company performance. A competitive advantage is certainly one way to look at it. But it's even more important that the aluminium industry reflects society at large, in order to be informed and enriched by a broader vision of the future.
Dr Solomon, thank you very much for the interview!
Dr. Fiona Solomon is Chief Executive Officer of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a global non-profit standards setting and certification organisation. ASI brings together producers, users and stakeholders in the aluminium value chain with a commitment to maximise the contribution of aluminium to a sustainable society. Working together, ASI aim to collaboratively foster responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminium.
Photo: Dr. Fiona Solomon, Source: Aluminium Stewardship Initiative