Welding the Gender Gap

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(6 votes)

Chaining themselves to railings and setting mailboxes alight; it was all in a day’s work for the Suffragettes of 1990s who ignited a fight for a woman’s place in society and consequently in the workforce. Decades later it is a pursuit not as violent but just as vehemently fought. As an issue, gender diversity is by no means industry-specific; it is in fact an issue that blows farther than the mineshafts of northern Queensland – yet it is no less pressing.

The mining industry, commonly perceived as a bloke’s world, is experiencing earthly tremours as the women of Australia start to shake off the stereotype - but not without help.

In order to acquire a more gender equal position, contractor Downer EDI Mining recently fought for, and won, the rights to advertise 50 female-only truck driver positions, sans the worry of discriminatory actions.

In a move that addresses gender diversity and skill shortages, the 10 entry-level operator positions will encourage cultural and socio-development throughout five Queensland mine sites. While Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Clare Endicott believes Downer EDI has "compelling grounds" for their anti-discrimination case, she also notes that an increase of 50 women-only jobs does not make for 100% gender equality, although it is a start.

At present, women account for a mere 14% of the total employee number yet - through annual 2% increments - by 2020 the company hopes to report an 11 per cent growth.

Though posting job placements will not be enough to attract women to what is perceived by many as a misogynistic environment. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency’s director Helen Conway says, in the past "companies have failed to develop and maintain a strong pipeline of female talent.

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Although overt sexism may have laced the resources and minerals industry two decades ago, a changing attitude has since been incited and maintained by big company’s and their safety and HR regulations and rules. However, testosterone-fuelled site culture and female stereotyping will only fully dissipate when support mechanisms that gain and sustain meaningful female participation are introduced.

Director of Mining Family Matters, Julie Shuttleworth, foresees services such as mentoring for women, family friendly rosters and affordable childcare as ways to encourage more women to enter the sector. And her concerns are not unfounded. A 2004 report focussing on the recruitment of women in the mining trade, established several recommendations to close the gender gap.

From “providing a gender-inclusive work environment” whereby women engaged in structured mentor programs to a tertiary degree that highlighted job opportunities, and even offered work placements. However, the findings by the Minerals Council of Australia subsidiary proved that while many solutions are available not enough action is being taken.

Led by the misconception that men should be the ones to ‘get their hands dirty’, women are avidly missing out on a number of jobs that steer away from the predictable mining engineer placements. Non-traditional positions that include nursing, safety professionals and equipment operators are readily available and easily mastered by man or woman.

Although inclusiveness and diversity are an important priority for contractor Downer EDI Mining, and should be for others like it, they also admit that research shows a rise in female presence would drastically improve the safety culture.

Not unsurprisingly, men are shown to engage in risk taking more than women, who prefer to foresee results and therefore take the necessary precautions. A 50/50 gender working environment naturally appears to be the most ideal scenario, however, time will tell how fast attitudes can change.

Written By:

MINETALK TWITTER

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