Gender equality: Caltex chooses commitment over token gestures

The need to recruit more women in the mining sector has been flagged by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Federal Government's recent Women in Leadership Census.

Late last year Price Waterhouse Coopers found that, of the top 50 ASX-listed mining and minerals companies only 6.3 per cent of key management positions were occupied by women, and nearly half of those companies (48 per cent) did not have a woman on the board.

The lack of diversity isn’t just seen in management.

According to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency's 2012 report women represent just 15.5 per cent of the mining industry's total workforce compared with 45.5 per cent across all industries. 

Breaking into the male dominated resources sector can prove to be a difficult task for some women and according to one resource company it takes more than just a policy of numbers is needed in order to get lasting results.

"At the root of gender diversity is inclusion – and a genuine desire to provide a safe and caring workplace" Clatex Australia human resources head Milano Pellegrini said.

Pellegrini explained that to retain employees the industry needs to look at the entire work environment.

"By providing this type of safe and caring environment, employees have further incentive to stay with the organisation and contribute to its long term success."

Caltex Australia employs about 3,500 people around Australia and is one of the few resource organisations that has a female chair, Elizabeth Bryan.

About 34 per cent of Caltex's employees are women, rising 4 per cent in comparison to last year.

The company said it sets regular goals to bridge the gender gap.

Last year its aim was to increase the number of women managers in its "pipeline critical successor talent pool" from 16 per cent to a minimum of 20 per cent, the final achievement was 25 per cent.

A decade ago women were twice as likely to leave Caltex compared to their male counterparts, realising this the company has worked to reduce female voluntary turnover rates by providing external mentoring and holding networking events.

Caltex has also introduced more family friendly work practices with a paid parental leave scheme and the introduction of bonuses for parents returning to work after having children.

Under its 'BabyCare' scheme, Caltex is paying primary care-giver employees a quarterly bonus amounting to 3 per cent of their base salary until the child's second birthday, as well as offering up to $1,500 of emergency child care.

Recognising the need for a multi-faceted approach toward gender equality Pellegrini said Caltex has provided employees with the support and flexibility that they needed as well as career advancement opportunities. 

"The results to date are very encouraging – managers have shifted their attitudes and employees feel more engaged," he said.

But Caltex's efforts to bring about change weren't without complications.

"People see through token or non-genuine attempts to satisfy perceptions in this.

Our endeavours have not gone without questions from our employees – both men and women – but our diversity strategy is gaining momentum and we are starting to derive the benefits," Pellegrini said.

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