Women in mining jobs are making a big impact when it comes to high-level management roles.
Take Sinead Kaufman, who is well known in the WA mining town of Tom Price. Her job involves looking after 1400 mine workers – as well as being a busy mum.
Last month iMINCO reported on the amazing career of Julie Shuttleworth, who is general manager of another mining operation run by Fortescue Metals Group in the remote Pilbara region.
Julie and Sinead’s careers serve as inspiration to other women in mining who have already started their journey working in the mining and resource sector in Australia.
Rio Tinto creates career opportunities for women in mining
Rio Tinto are a force to be reckoned with in the iron ore mining industry in Western Australia. Over the past 12 months, mining companies like Rio Tinto have been forced to look at their day-to-day mining processes under a fiscal microscope.
“placing the right people in the right job”
The mining giant’s goal has been to trim mining costs wherever possible and increase productivity through technology – as well as placing the right people in the right job role.
It comes as no surprise to see Sinead reach the ranks of General Manager of the Tom Price and Marandoo Operations, which produces around 40 million tonnes of iron ore each year. Mining in the Pilbara involves developing wide areas of barren, ‘sun-kissed’ land into productive mining operations.
Being a high profile woman in mining, Sinead pinches herself, as the role of General Manager at Rio Tinto is so far removed from what she imagined when studying geology at university twenty years ago.
“I had a hugely romantic view of being off in a landrover somewhere exploring huge mines! It was highly romantic, in my mind.”
“a $55,000 prize and a month in France”
Recently, Sinead was named one of Chief Executive Women’s seven education scholarship winners and the recipient of a $55,000 prize to attend a month-long Advanced Executive Program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
Anything is possible for women in mining careers
With very few women in mining, especially at the top end of the management ladder, Sinead views this award as a great reminder to all women in the mining industry that anything is possible – if you just believe in yourself and take the next step up that ladder. Taking that next step requires focus and dedication, especially when it comes to finding time to pursue training and personal development.
“three mines and working 12 hour shifts”
Travelling extensively between the three Rio Tinto mines and working 12 hour shifts, Sinead has the overall responsibility for operational issues. Part of her job specification means dealing with the various employee and township issues that may arise.
Over 90 per cent of the residential accommodation in Tom Price is owned by Rio Tinto. As a skilled and highly energetic person who loves a challenge, this means handling everything from workers’ house allocations to managing community issues and supporting the development of community facilities.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also finds time to be on the board of the Tom Price Primary School, the Nintirri Community Centre and also heads up the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Mental health working group, which supports the health and wellbeing of all manner of workers employed in mining across the state.
Family Matters in women’s mining careers
Meanwhile, having once lived in the sleepy Irish Isles, Sinead has visited some of the world’s’ most off-beat locations, including the Australian outback and underground copper mines in South Africa. She endorses the fact that having a close life partner and additional help at home are the key ingredients to being a successful woman in mining and a work/life balance.
“a successful woman in mining and a work/life balance is essential”
Having two children, ages two and six, the mining duo have become a Rio Tinto “husband and wife team” by sharing parental leave as well as integrating flexible work rosters.
Her husband ended his career in the British Army, handed in his kit and travelled the world supporting Sinead in her mining career. He too, managed to develop a good career within Rio Tinto.
As if Sinead does not have enough to do, she also takes great pride in supporting minority groups across the entire Rio Tinto employee base. In particular, the 20 per cent female workforce and Rio Tinto’s Indigenous employees.
“We do spend plenty of time putting in support mechanisms for theses different groups,” she says. “The joke often is, ‘is there anything for the white males to do’?’
“contributes to improving the lives of many, many people
Sinead Kaufman is another wonderful example of how women in mining can carve out an amazing career and have the skills and mindset to develop programs that support other workers within the industry. It’s clear, she is one of those managers who sincerely values the people who work with her as part of the Rio Tinto mining juggernaut and wherever possible, contributes to improving the lives of many, many people.
How many women in mining have reached the top jobs in the Australian mining industry? Not enough.
However, as the mining industry shifts into a new phase, there are many women in the sector who are ready to step up and prove without a doubt, a personally and financially rewarding career can be achieved for all women in mining.