Unearthing New Resources

attracting and retaining women in the Australian minerals industry


Unearthing New ResourcesOverview

The statistics in the Australian minerals industry are stark:

  • women comprise approximately 18% of minerals industry workforce (both sites and corporate) compared to a national participation rate of 45%;
  • women represent just over 3% of all employees at mine sites and minerals processing operations; and
  • Indigenous women represent 12% of all Indigenous employees.

It is widely recognised that the effective participation of women in the minerals industry is limited by a number of key structural issues, including:

  • the low level of part time work in the minerals industry compared to other sectors, including other traditionally male oriented industries is an obvious impediment in that 40% of female employment nationally is part time;
  • the industry’s culture of overwork, long hours and intensity has had a more negative impact on women than men because of their additional caring responsibilities; and
  • the remote nature of the industry is also a factor inhibiting female participation in the industry, though this is much less so in regard to the engagement of Indigenous women.

The age profile of women in the industry is also heavily concentrated on those aged 34 and under, a significantly younger cohort than men, who on average fall in the 45 to 54 age bracket.

This profile is likely the result of a lack of part time and flexible work arrangements for women of parenting age. Whilst women often take the decision to leave the industry to have children and to care for them, a lack of ‘on-ramps’ exist in terms of re-engaging them with the minerals industry when they are able to return to work. Where women have reported positively on their successful, if highly diffi cult, attempts to balance childbearing and caring with full time jobs, their success has relied heavily on a support base of other careers.

For this reason, women with children working in the industry have the most difficulty when living in mining communities in highly remote areas, or in communities that are separate to that of their families.

There are also significant cultural impediments to women’s participation that are linked to the structural issues in many ways. These cultural issues can manifest themselves in terms of a lack of mentor relationships and support networks, gender segregated nature of decision-making and task allocation, disadvantage, discrimination or harassment.

The Australian minerals industry recognises that as a highly gender segregated industry that there is a business imperative to address these constraints on the effective engagement of women in the workforce and the communities in which the industry operates. The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the commitment of the Australian Government through the Office for Women, both financial and in-kind, to jointly undertake research to identify features of the industry that disadvantage women employees. The research also seeks to identify options to adjust the minerals sectors structures and culture to attract and retain high-quality and skilled women in the industry’s current and future workforce.

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