Gender diversity is at the top of the agenda for many firms, not as a societal obligation but because of the real value it delivers. Australian Mining writes.
Improved workforce diversity is widely recognised as delivering long-term benefits to companies across all industries.
Ernst & Young has reported that diversity is a proven contributor to team efficiency, success and decision making.
Gender equality not only delivers value to the workplace here and now, according to EY’s ‘Women in Business’ report, but it also addresses one of the root causes of the disparity, by promoting more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for girls.
This is true for mining companies which are paying heightened attention to workforce diversity, ranking it as high as digitalisation and environmental sustainability.
BHP has taken diversity as seriously as any mining company; three years ago, the company publicly put forward an ambitious 50:50 gender balance target for its workforce by 2025.
The company’s declaration of this goal was a bold move that many were sceptical of at the time.
In 2016, the mining industry only had 16 per cent female representation, with BHP slightly above this average with 17.6 per cent, according to BHP group procurement officer Sundeep Singh.
He says the company’s reason to go after this target was simple: “It was good for business,” Singh says at the 2019 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC).
“Our data shows that more inclusive and diverse teams outperform others on safety, productivity and culture.”
The company’s data, such as a 67 per cent reduction in injury rates, an 11 per cent improved adherence to schedule, a 28 per cent decrease in unplanned absences and a 21 per cent increase in pride in work, backs Singh’s reasoning.
BHP’s journey continues to gather momentum. By 2019, women represented nearly 24.5 per cent of the company’s workforce, a 7 per cent improvement since the target was announced.
Fortescue Metals Group is another leading company just as vocal about its path to a diverse workforce – more than half of the iron ore miner’s board is now represented by females.
In August 2019, Fortescue also signed a pledge with non-profit organisation Parity.org, signifying its commitment to workplace diversity.
As part of the Parity Pledge, Fortescue is required to interview at least one qualified woman for every executive position. The pledge is designed to bring gender parity to the highest levels of a company.
Elizabeth Gaines, the first female chief executive appointed by Fortescue, agrees the best results come from a diverse workforce.
“We want to ensure that as many women as possible have the opportunity to participate and make a strong contribution to the Australian resources sector,” Gaines says.
Majors like BHP and Fortescue may be leading the diversity charge, but smaller companies should not feel exempt from moving in this direction too.
Adaptive Resourcing, a Perth-based recruitment outsourcer and talent advisory firm works with a number of junior and mid-tier miners.
The company’s director and practice lead, minerals and energy, Matt Stidwill says that improved workforce diversity is on the agenda with companies of all sizes.
The former BHP and Newmont talent lead believes a diversity agenda is often misconceived as a big and time-consuming task.
This has led small- to medium-sized companies thinking there are things they can’t do right now to create a diverse workforce.
“You don’t have to be a giant company to develop a diverse workforce,” Stidwill says. “There are lots of things that they can do to achieve the same goal.”
BHP and Fortescue, for example, have exemplified workforce diversity through simple means of including both their Indigenous and female employees in their media.
Such approach can be adopted by mining companies of all sizes.
“People confuse diversity with a five-year plan of mindset and culture change, but they can really start with simple things,” Stidwill says.
“A good diversity agenda in a recruitment process makes candidates feel important based on merits and skills, while also meeting the company’s diversity goals.
“The worst thing you can say to female hires is that they’re being considered for a particular role because of their gender.”
Adaptive Resourcing has established a three-point plan that includes “quick wins” that assists companies of all sizes to achieve a diverse workforce.
“There are plenty of things smaller mining companies can do to ensure they are encouraging a diverse workforce and they need not necessarily be significant in time or cost,” Stidwill says.
“From an attraction perspective, it is important that companies understand their own employee value proposition (EVP) and can effectively portray that EVP to a diverse audience.
“There are many simple steps that mining juniors can look at in this regard: Is the imagery correct? Does your website and advertising show a male dominated industry?
“Do you advertise in the areas that don’t just appeal to men? Do your campaigns use language that only appeals to men?
“And from a selection perspective, do your employees understand the importance of diversity? Are your recruiters trained to ask appropriate questions?
“Do your recruiters do their best to add diverse candidates to every shortlist and then ensure hiring managers know why? There are, of course, many more strategies that assist companies in meeting these very necessary targets.”
In addition to mandating diversity in BHP’s own operations, the company works with its supply chain to promote diversity and guide its suppliers in this direction.
The major miner, understanding the influence it can have throughout the mining supply chain, includes greater diversity as a condition in its contracts with suppliers across its global operations.
“We partner with organisations like MEGT, an Australian non-profit organisation that supports local employers, apprentices and trainees, which now makes sure women represent 40 per cent of suitable applicants,” Singh says.
“Again, it’s a commitment from both organisations and it’s been written into our contracts.”
Like larger miners and their Tier 1 suppliers, Stidwill says smaller companies like Mount Gibson Iron are instilling transformative ways to improve their workforce flexibility to support the move to a diverse workforce.
As well as recruiting for all vacancies at Mount Gibson Iron’s Koolan Island Operation, Adaptive Resourcing is partnering with its progressive human resources and leadership team to not only implement attraction and selection strategies that encourage a more diverse workforce, but also to generate onsite buy-in at a supervisor level.
“It’s all about creating a level of awareness as to why this is so important. A diverse workforce reaps better business results,” Stidwill concludes.
This article will appear in the February edition of Australian Mining.