Rio Tinto Mining Executive Catriona Beadel is on a mission to encourage young people in her industry and change public perceptions

Rio Tinto: Catriona Beadel inspires young people about mining

Rio Tinto: Catriona Beadel inspires young people about mining

Catriona Beadel is a woman on a mission. She wants to inspire young people about how rewarding, challenging and worthwhile it can be working in the mining sector. Catriona is seeking to change the narrative around mining and she is proud to be doing so with the help of her employer, Rio Tinto.

Where Women Work had the opportunity to catch up with Catriona and learn about her important work.

Learning from the top and pulling information up

Cat Beadel mining executive to CEO, Rio Tinto

As a Mining Executive to the CEO of Energy and Minerals at Rio Tinto in the UK, Catriona’s role is like a ‘chief of staff’ pulling up information and distilling it into digestible chunks for the CEO to process.

“I shadow the CEO to experience how executive life is, what challenges he faces and what conversations he has with his team,” Catriona explains. “It’s very much a learning role but it comes with a lot of administrative tasks and a big focus on pulling information up from below in a simple format for the CEO to process.”

Catriona initially joined Rio Tinto in a business development role in the Ventures division driving investment in battery materials. She had the opportunity to report to the CEO on certain projects and, through this exposure, was asked to join him in her current position.

Describing the range of skills required for her job, Catriona comments “You have to be a people person as there’s a focus on building relationships with the senior leadership team and facilitating messages across everyone. You also need to be organised, prioritise your time effectively and be a good communicator. It’s also important not to be too proud to take on any given task.”

Globetrotting and connecting with workers worldwide

One of the most exciting elements of Catriona’s role is travel - but it can also be a challenge. She has the opportunity to see the world, visiting different sites and connecting with workers, but the jet-setting lifestyle can sometimes cause her to forget what day and time-zone she’s in.

“Rio Tinto has an amazingly diverse geographical footprint. We have assets in Australia, China, Madagascar, South Africa, Quebec and California - to name just a few examples. I have the opportunity to visit the most phenomenal places and meet a huge range of people,” says Catriona. “Travelling can also be a challenge though as there’s a lot of it! Sometimes I feel like I’ve been moving all over the place but I need to keep my energy up.”

However, Catriona is also excited by the diversity of (Energy & Minerals) Rio Tinto’s product group when it comes to commodity, and this helps fuel her willingness to travel. “We have everything from uranium, to mineral sands, to high grade iron ore, to borates. It’s great getting involved in so many different facets of the industry,” she says.

Rio Tinto Cat Beadel travel

Founder of Young Mining Professionals UK

With such a busy working life, one would forgive Catriona for not having time for extra projects. It’s therefore impressive to learn that, in addition to working with Rio Tinto, Catriona is Founder of Young Mining Professionals UK - a networking group for young people in the industry.

Catriona decided to launch the group early on in her career after attending many networking events and finding that she was one of very few young professionals in the room.

“I would walk into a room and find a sea of older men. As a woman in her mid twenties at the time, I found it difficult to approach them, introduce myself and talk about deal generation. I was concerned I might not be taken seriously and this fear felt like a bigger hurdle than I anticipated,” Catriona recalls.

“I tried to find opportunities where younger people in the industry could get together, but there didn’t seem to be any. I thought ‘I’m not going to sit back and accept that’ and contacted everyone I knew in the industry under the age of 40, inviting them to an event and urging them to each bring two guests along. We found a space, managed to get some money behind the bar and our first networking event was born.”

Since that first event, Young Mining Professionals UK has gone from strength to strength. Its aim is to provide peer-to-peer networking, offer inspiration from senior leaders and also generate mentoring and job opportunities. At each event, an industry leader is invited to present to the group over dinner or drinks.

“Our original objective was simply peer-to-peer networking but, as we developed, we found there was an opportunity to invite senior leaders to share their expertise. This is important as the industry is facing a generational gap with a lot of people retiring over the next 10 years - we need to facilitate the transferring of knowledge,” says Catriona.

As well as growing in terms of objectives, Young Mining Professionals UK has acted as a spring-board for groups worldwide. There are now Young Mining Professionals networks across the world - and Rio Tinto is showing its support as a global sponsor.

“There is a Rio Tinto representative on most Young Mining Professionals committees throughout the world,” says Catriona. “It has been great to have my employer’s support. Founding this initiative has been so rewarding and it’s always nice to hear from people who have connected with a mentor or found a new opportunity through our events.”

Why graduates should consider mining careers

Young mining professional Cat Beadel, Rio Tinto

But why is Catriona so keen to encourage young people into the industry? Having experienced the sector herself, she is determined to challenge public misconceptions.

“Mining is misunderstood within the wider world,” says Catriona. “The narrative is focused on environmental damage and pillaging of communities but the reality is very different. At Rio Tinto there is a huge focus on ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) and mining is a solution to many problems. It’s an opportunity for employment in many underprivileged regions and communities benefit from flows of funds; many schools and hospitals are funded from mining revenue. Also, modern technology tackling climate change requires raw materials - for example, solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars.

Catriona describes mining as “a fundamental building block for a green future” and is pleased to see Rio Tinto encouraging young careers through graduate campaigns and opportunities.

“The future of mining is very much around automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” she explains. “Therefore, a key objective of Rio Tinto is to appeal to computer scientists coming out of university, and also to offer data science training for graduates of traditionally related subjects like Geology. We’re also re-training our current employees so they can develop new technological skill-sets.”

For Catriona, it’s important that the industry helps young people make the connection between mining and its end-users. “Hearing aids, artificial limbs and aeroplanes all come from mining. We want young people to understand the relevance and importance of the sector and join our important work,” she says.

Advice for women looking to join Rio Tinto

For women interested in joining Rio Tinto, Catriona paints an exciting picture of working life and the skills most valued there.

“Rio Tinto is a fantastic place for women to work because there’s recognition that stereotypically female traits are a real asset. Skills such as relationship building, understanding the communities in which we operate and being able to empathise with people, are traditionally associated with women and are highly valued. Our female leaders are inspirational role models; many of them have children and they go home at a reasonable hour. It’s not a ‘macho’ environment where anyone feels they have to act in a certain way,” Catriona comments.

“I was personally drawn to Rio Tinto because it has such a great reputation. I knew about the company as a child and always had a desire to work there. However, for those less familiar with Rio Tinto I’d tell them we’re held in high regard when it comes to best practice in mining, strong ethics, approach to communities and environmental standards. We’re also supportive of an entrepreneurial mind-set with an inclusive company culture.”

Cat Beadel Rio Tinto event

Pushing for great work-life balance

When she’s working, Catriona describes herself as optimistic, focused, adaptable, a creative problem-solver and a people person. However, she says she is slightly different in her home life as she can afford to be less efficient and allow herself the opportunity to kick-back.

“At work I have the accelerator pedal on but at home I tend to ease off a bit and not worry if things aren’t perfect. Because of the scope of my role, my work life does tend to merge with my home life so it’s important that I make time to relax; whether that comes in the form of playing my guitar, playing tag rugby or cooking for friends.”

Catriona concludes with a top tip for further women professionals: “Someone once told me ‘confidence in your intellect isn’t arrogance’ and that really resonated with me,” she says. “Intellect isn’t anything to do with experience; just because you don’t know something, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. Also, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you have confidence in yourself, nothing is out of reach.”

Join women like Catriona at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto offers graduate programs and apprenticeships for young people interested in the mining industry. It also offers an abundance of opportunities for experienced hires.

Search and apply for your next career move with Rio Tinto today.


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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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