Voices@Athena - Esther Aboagye

Voices@Athena - Esther Aboagye 

" Mining is a very male-dominated industry and so as a woman, you need to work extra hard to be accepted and be placed on the same level as your male counterpart."

Esther Aboagye
Director, HR/HSE 
Drill Masters Africa Ltd.
Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana 

Executive MBA Batch 2021

Challenging the status quo can sometimes be a tricky one, especially for a woman living and working in sub-Saharan Africa. You become so used to the way things are done that you are averse to change. Once you are settled in one thing, you are not willing and ready to make any changes. This becomes more or less your comfort zone. However, nothing positive and productive has ever come out of remaining in your comfort zone. This only breeds mediocrity and passivity and you stay put where you are.

My father started off in the military and in the early 80s when Ghana was saddled with innumerable coup d'états and firing squads, he left the military and moved to the mines to start work as a technician because he was in the air force initially as a mechanical technician. However, after a while, he moved into Security and rose through the ranks. 

Living with him and my other siblings meant we moved from one mine to the other as and when he also moved. This shaped my desire to work in the mining sector when I was done with school and entered the job market. Right after university, I managed to get a chance to undertake my internship in one of the mining companies where my father used to work. This laid the foundation for my desire to work in mining or anything related to mining.

I got my first opportunity to work in a small mine where not much experience was required. I had enrolled at an MBA program with Leicester University in London but left the program midway to return home to attend to a family emergency. I was fortunate to find work with this mining company. I settled in well with my meagre classroom knowledge and with time, was comfortable with where I was placed. This became my comfort zone. 

After three years, a company I dealt with was pleased with my approach to work and decided to hire me and I gladly accepted because the job paid well. A year and a half later, I found a golden opportunity to work with one of the largest multinational gold mining companies and I jumped at it. This meant that I had progressed well through my experience but I still did not have much of subject expert knowledge. 

Working with a multinational company offered some of the best work experiences there ever could be. I worked through the whole value chain and gained a  great deal of experience over a period of eight years. Mining is a very male-dominated industry and so as a woman, you need to work extra hard to be accepted and placed on the same level as your male counterpart. Here I was, working hard and gaining all the experience there was, but I still had to battle my way through to be fully accepted.

Going by the Insights Discovery model, my color energy is a greater percentage of red mixed with green. This makes me a natural leader who is always seeking results. I am an active person who seeks to know and explore new things. The field of mining with all its lucrative benefits became my comfort zone. However, my true red traits will not allow me to be comfortable doing the same things over and over again for eight long years. I needed a new challenge. I had gained experience working through the whole mining value chain (exploration, construction, and operations). It made sense to now move on. I wanted to try out new things and to put my experience over the years to good use, but I did not get that opportunity.

The question now was, “what next”? Do I sit in my comfort zone and enjoy all the monetary (extrinsic) benefits but do not feel engaged and satisfied? I started questioning the system and asking my “bosses” for new opportunities and possible transfers. Unfortunately, I was not granted that. At this point, I had reached a stage where my red energy was making me restless. I was yearning to do something new. This led me to register for a Master’s in Public Health program.  I had studied Arts and Humanities in school, and this was my first time engaging in a study that was somewhat science-related and completely different. This new area was my perfect challenge. I left my work on mutual agreement and plunged myself into my new-found area of expertise. 

It is comfortable when work becomes mechanical and monotonous but that should not be acceptable. In an industry like mining where an opportunity for women to work can be seen as golden, it is imperative to question the status quo and make amends whenever necessary and not settle for ease and comfort. It is always important to ask yourself the question why not me? The men in mining more often than not are given the chance to develop and progress but not their female counterparts. You are made to feel grateful for the opportunity granted to you and you have to work twice as hard as your male counterpart.

I took a bold step which earned me a master’s degree and I am still moving on to bag an EMBA. I am not allowing anything to put me down, not even a “juicy” job opportunity. I will put all efforts to bridge the equity gap.

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