Traditionally the mining and resources industry is predominantly male. Women are still under represented and only make up 15% of Australia’s mining workforce. While there have been many positive changes integrating women into the mining industry, it still appears that they are under-represented.

The COO Leaders Resources Summit 2014 at Australia’s Gold Coast on May 7 and 8 will host a panel of leading ladies within the mining industry who will discuss the various reasons why there is such an absence of women in the industry and what challenges the industry faces when it comes to correcting this shortfall. This panel will consist of the following ladies who have a strong presence in the industry:

  • Moderator - Wood Mackenzie head of Corporate Analyses Mining & Metals Vanessa Garling;
  • UGL Limited general manager Patricia Manton-Hall;
  • Momentum Partners head of mining and Women in Mining WA founder & chair Sabina Shugg;
  • Rio Tinto Special Projects chief advisor Sally Rayner; and
  • Thiess general manager Strategy & Development Nikki Poteri-Collie

The mining industry worldwide acknowledges the necessity of integrating more women into the industry and many organizations are working on ways to improve the workplace and make it more appealing to women – mainly via more flexible work practices. However, there are continuous reports on the main issues that prevent women from working in the mining industry, or the challenges that effectively, push them out of the industry.

These are - the need for flexible work arrangements; the male orientated work culture; the lack of notice and flexibility when assigned work in remote locations; and the lack of child care and parental leave.

The panel at the COO Leaders Resources Summit will address these issues and examine mechanisms that have increased the number of women in the industry along with ways that will help retain them. They will discuss how the mining industry has come a long way with many mining organizations increasing their female numbers through mentoring for women, family friendly rosters and affordable childcare.

A large issue preventing or curtailing the growth of women in the mining industry is the fact that mining does not have a very inviting work-life balance. The industry requires a lot of long-term travel (many a time at the last minute’s notice), moving to rural areas and working long irregular hours. Moreover mining can be dangerous work. These tough work conditions mean that something more than a good salary is needed to entice women, and furthermore, keep them.

“The panel at the COO Leaders Mining Summit are ladies who know, understand and appreciate the difficulty women face when entering the mining industry. Sure they’ve been there themselves,” says COO Leaders Resources Summit director Larry Reaney.

“This panel understands first hand women’s apprehensions and they are constantly trying to drive an understanding within mining organizations, and the industry in general, so that they can help provide change and improvements to the industry. They will share their advice at the COO Leaders Resources Summit - guidance that they would give to young women entering the mining industry. They will also share their own challenges - what they had to overcome and deal with when they began their career.”

Part of the advice and stories that they will bring to the table is how to handle emotions within this often frustrating male dominated industry. In order to remain in the mining industry many women need to alter their attitude and establish their own core values along with keeping their emotions in check. Work can often get massively challenging on a mine site, but if a woman has a strong head on her shoulders and keeps her behaviour assertive, she will have an increased likelihood of staying in the industry and doing well.

There are plenty of aspects that have contributed to this low percentage of women in the industry. One thing that should be recognized is the fact that this figure has in fact vastly increased over the past few years. Many organizations are doing their utmost to cater for women in the industry so we should continuously see more and more entering the mining industry workforce. This panel aims to get the leaders in the mining industry understanding the importance of creating a good workplace culture for women.

The COO Leaders Resources Summit will be held on May 7 and 8 in the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast. It is a two-day closed door event which brings together 150 of Australia’s leading COOs to discuss the current critical resources issues that affect the day to day operations of their business. It gives COOs within the resources sector an opportunity to learn about the latest technology and service offerings along with understanding and exchanging ideas with their peers through targeted workshops and sessions.