Despite some instability in recent years, mining continues to be one of Australia’s largest industries, contributing an all-time high of AU$26,745 million to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.

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Until 1986, women were not even permitted underground or to enter mines in Western Australia

Yet, a new national ‘women in mining’ survey conducted by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) has showcased the challenging experiences of women employed in the modern resources industry.

The data, launched as part of AusIMM’s International Women’s Day Series in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth dictated that although women’s participation in the industry was slowly increasing and the gender pay gap shrinking, support for women in the sector needed critical attention.

According to a Harrier Human Capital, the mining and resources industry in Australia faces a number of unique challenges when it comes to improving gender diversity at leadership level.

In its white paper, “The Leaky Pipeline: Gender diversity in Australia’s mining and resources industry”, Harrier states that “data on gender composition across role types within the mining industry shows that men greatly outnumber women in almost all role types, but significantly more so in site-based and leadership positions”.

According to Harrier’s research, in Australia, men hold 92 per cent of all CEO roles in resources and mining. Majority of those holding operational leadership or CEO positions in the top 10 ASX-listed mining organisations have progressed from technical leadership, supported by tertiary qualifications in engineering, geology, geophysics or similar – areas all under-represented by women.

“In mining, the only job types where women dominate are administrative, close to Australia’s average where women hold 74 per cent of these roles,” Harrier reported.

AusIMM’s data found that over 57 per cent of female respondents indicated they did not perceive the industry as diverse, and over 40 per cent did not perceive the industry as inclusive.

Of the 21 per cent of women who indicated they held a FIFO/DIDO role in the sector, five times as many women indicated that health care services were below average when compared to their male counterparts.

Harrier backs these findings, stating that “long commutes, fly-in-fly out work and a lack of facilities for young families, together with deep-rooted cultural and societal constructs, create significant barriers to entry and progression for women”.

Further to this, AusIMM’s data found that seven times more women saw diversity and inclusion as a priority when compared to their male counterparts.

To overcome female challenges in the industry, female participants indicated that the three most important areas of focus were equal employment opportunities, flexible workplaces and an increase in industry leadership.

AusIMM CEO Stephen Durkin agrees that there are challenges in the industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

“We are deeply committed to playing a strong leadership role to help fix these problems as the peak body for resources professionals,” he said.

While progress is slow, it’s important to recognise that investment in long-term strategies to create more inclusive workplaces and develop talented women into senior and executive positions is starting to pay off. PwC report that 46 per cent of new board appointments at ASX miners between 2016 and 2017 were women and by 2018, all of the miners in the ASX 200 had at least one woman on the board.

“Put simply, the more women we attract to the mining industry, the more women will continue to be attracted to it,” states Harrier.

“This creates a ‘virtuous circle’ where diversity in leadership is not only a key metric linked to improved performance but also an enabler of diversity throughout the organisation.”


Pay equity in mining compared to other industries. Image courtesy of Harrier.

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