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Women in mining

International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8 across the world. To coincide with this, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) surveyed over 500 people who work in resources to better understand how women experience work in the mining industry, and the results were surprising.

According to the survey, approximately 75% of women working in the resources sector earn more than the average female Australian salary (Workforce Gender Equality Agency 2021). They also have a high qualification rate, with 92% of respondents holding at least one university degree.

The survey also found that more than half (55%) of respondents view their workplace as “very diverse” or “average” compared to 35% in the resources sector. Women in mining were also 3.3 times more likely to indicate that their workplace had a “very inclusive” culture compared to those in the resources sector. It should however be noted that the level of perceived inclusiveness was still less than 30%, indicating that there is still considerable work to be done.

According to the survey, there has been improvement in several areas over the past year including:
●    There has been an increase in retention with a 5% increase from last year in the number of women who have worked in the sector for between five and 10 years.
●    There has been relative stability in the level of female mining unemployment despite the impact of COVID-19 on the broader economy and unemployment rates.
●    Similarly, the level of FIFO and DIDO roles also remained relatively stable despite the travel restrictions in place for much of last year. This is particularly important as on-site experience is considered to be of importance particularly for those in technical professions.

One of the key areas identified as an opportunity for professional development was leadership, with 55% of respondents highlighting it as a priority. The ability to adapt to a changing industry, innovation and the development of transferable skill sets were all highlighted as areas of interest for leadership focus, while demand for mentoring and coaching was also high. Other priorities included the need to create equal employment opportunities, supporting career progression and focusing on recruitment and retention.

For the first time, the report asked for views on issues of equity. Only 47% of respondents indicated that work is valued for its quality rather than gender, while just 40% believe remuneration is equitable across the genders. These figures were less favourable for women in FIFO and DIDO roles, indicating significant work is still to be done to address issues of equity.

Other opportunities for improvement included workplace flexibility, wellbeing and work life balance, particularly for those who work on-site or in technical roles. Qualitative responses indicated that onsite rosters and work schedules were largely incompatible with commitments outside the workplace. Improving operational flexibility will not only support female workers but also boost retention and career progression.

Some other specific areas for improvement for health and wellbeing that were highlighted include offering recreational options beyond the gymnasium and mess hall such as social activity spaces and increased internet connectivity. While focusing on health care services onsite to support women’s health, wellbeing and mental health was also emphasised.

The report will inform both industry and government, so that they can better identify and improve the needs of women in the mining industry and will be used to determine how to better attract, retain and encourage more women to join the industry. It also helps determine how to better foster a culture of inclusiveness and foster innovation in the industry to better leverage the female talent pool in the industry.

 

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