At last week’s AIMEX conference and exhibition in Sydney, the women in mining panel discussion was a big hit with visitors.
There was a cross-section of high profile women who are working in the sector who volunteered to share their experiences with the audience.
The Women in Mining panel which was chaired by Lainie Anderson, a director of Mining Family Matters and high profile women from some of Australia’s largest mining companies including, Anglo American, Xstrata Coal NSW, with Gabrielle Horn, apprentice auto-electrician at Anglo America’s Drayton Mine, Natalie Bussau, manager for operational readiness at Improvement Resources and Dr Ana Duarte, solution consultant for the mining industry at GE Intelligent Platforms completing the line-up.
The women gave a candid account about their varied experience in the mining industry, revealing what inspires them and their hope of more women joining the industry because there were a lot for the opportunities for women in mining.
How women can enter the mining industry
The Australian mining industry, to this day has a low percentage of women actively involved, with recent figures showing approximately 15 per cent of the nation`s workforce accounts for women in mining careers. Despite what you may hear in the industry, the panelists made it very clear that being a woman in the male-dominated industry made no difference on the job between genders and each could complete their own tasks as equals.
“It`s really about having a go.”¯
It seems there aren’t so many hurdles for women who want to get into the mining sector. The best take-away the audience had was for women who want to work in mining had to first view all of their options and figure out what type of mining job they wanted to do and to talk to as many people as possible and just get out there and go for it.
“Take every opportunity that comes along,”¯ Bussau said.
The panel agreed on having the right aptitude, and the right attitude was key to getting a start in the mines, adding that often opportunities would soon present themselves.
“The mining industry is very small, everyone knows everyone”¯
“If you get in there and do a good job people will try to find you another job, they love the fact that you`ve had the passion to get in there and have a go.”¯ said one of the panel members.
iMINCO have reported many times before (and this was again reiterated at the conference) that the best way to get into mining should not just look at big mining companies like Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue but to forage out and seek the local mining contractors, suppliers, mining service companies and manufacturers, widening the job opportunities funnel.
Women in mining should make the most of networking opportunities and engage with mentors
The AIMEX panel all agreed that activities such as mentoring for women, family friendly rosters and childcare that doesn’t break the bank were solid ways the mining and resource industry had created the pathway ensuring more women entered and stayed in mining careers.
“Having a strong network of mentors is important for women who wish to succeed in the mining sector”
There was agreement all-round when the topic of discussion turned to the industry and how the sector had come a long way in supporting its female workers.
The topic of mentoring received a lot of attention as the panel touched on the advantages of mentoring for women in mining. “They`re not so emotionally involved and are able to drive you and give you tips and suggestions,”¯ Duarte said.
One of the panel members working at Anglo`s Drayton mine said there is a strong culture of mentoring at the mining company, with each apprentice assigned one tradesperson.
“That works better for me, I have more time to learn from him and gain one-on-one experience,”¯ Horn said.
Mentors can come from anywhere.
- It doesn`t necessarily have to be someone who`s high up in the company, it doesn`t have to be the general manager, it can be an operator with 20 years experience who`s seen young engineers come and go who can often give the best advice.
- Sometimes a mentor will find you just because of the way you go about your work or interact with people.
- The best advice would be don`t close yourself off to people just because they`re not the general manager.
Balancing Work & Family Life
Mining can can offer women many opportunities with the promise of a great salary, travel, and varied experiences, however it can sometimes be take its toll owing to the FIFO lifestyle being away from home and living in tough conditions. However the panel was quick to point out that issues faced by women in mining were not just apparent in the resource industry.
“I don`t think the challenges of being a working mum are any different in the mining industry,”¯ Davies said.
It’s true all families struggle from time to time, whether you`re in mining or not. One of the panelists has written a guide for families working in the mining and resource sector which has sold over 95,000 copies. She was quoted as saying, “communication is the most important issue for families dealing with difficult rosters and FIFO families are usually very functional, work together as a team and are very aware of all the pros and cons.
Making the right decision in terms of where women wanted their work be based and whether working at a residential mine or undertaking a FIFO role was more suited to their individual circumstances.
The panel summed up the entire discussion by adding the following advice for all women who are looking to enter the mining and resource industry:
- Passion and getting in there and “having a go”
- Treat people “the way you expect to be treated”
- Women in mining are gutsy chicks, just go do it
iMINCO articles on women in mining
- Future of Women in the Mining Industry
Mining jobs for women are in large supply. Male domination is no longer the norm. Roles in the mining industry have become gender neutral in a variety of professional, trade and entry level areas. These jobs have become a permanent employment option.
- Women in mining – a network initiative
The NSW Minerals Council has announced a new network designed to help connect women already in mining and to attract more to the resource sector. “The mining industry is growing and we`re going to need to attract and retain more women in mining jobs to be able to meet the global demand for Australian minerals in the years to come,”¯ NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.
- Women in mining ““ QLD Govt $20,000 incentive
Women who are considering a career in the mining industry can thank the Queensland Government for giving them a $20,000 incentive to encourage more women to get into mining. The Queensland Government announced a scholarship program for women who enrol in further study and commence a career in the mines.
- Mining Jobs For Women
Mining jobs for women are not nearly as scarce as you might think. Though most people still tend to think of mining as primarily a man`s world, there are more and more women making inroads in the industry. In fact, many companies actually prefer to hire women for certain jobs, as they tend to have excellent attention to detail and good safety records.
Reference: Women in Mining | AIMEX 2013 Sydney discussion panel