Sometimes you find the answer to a problem right under your nose.
That’s what Queensland’s mining industry seems to have done: around 140,000 skilled workers are needed there in the next three years; a vast, untapped pool of talent is ready to step into the breach – women.
The phenomenon is known as gendered occupational segregation, and it means that most women have never even considered a career in mining, or any number of similarly male dominated industries. Queensland’s ‘Women in Hard Hats’ initiative has been busy changing that since its $1.6 million launch in 2006.
Women in Hard Hats attracts women to non traditional careers like construction, engineering and technology, including training positions and senior roles.
It’s achieved by promoting relevant career paths to girls and women, and by changing attitudes among women and employers through marketing and resources.
The initiative uses showcasing activities to highlight opportunities, and monitors and provides information through social marketing and research.
Issues of geographical disadvantage are also tackled by engaging women from rural and regional areas in policy and program developments.
Queensland’s Minister for Women Karen Struthers is a staunch advocate of Women in Hard Hats: “These industries need women; it is not a choice. Trade careers for women need to be reality, not a novelty.”
Struthers’ predecessor Margaret Keech oversaw the program’s launch and continues to support it: “We want to encourage women to choose the career they want, not the career that others expect them to follow.”
Queensland’s recent resources boom left a skill shortage.
This eased during the recent economic downturn but Women in Hard Hats remains important, and benefits continue to filter through: at least 20 women will soon have jobs at BMA coal mines in the Bowen Basin, earning over $80,000.
To cap it all off, it appears the benefits go beyond mere (wo)manpower… research shows that employing more women, particularly in leadership positions, leads to improved consumer perception and higher profits.