Raw deal for women in mining

A member of AusIMM's Women in Mining Committee has told MINING DAILY the gender pay gap at the top levels of the mining industry is three times more than in all other industries.

The pay gap between men and women in the mining industry at the more senior roles is three times more than the gap across all other sectors.

As MINING DAILY reported yesterday, the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s (AusIMM) 2009 Remuneration and Employment Survey showed the gender pay gap at the top level of responsibility, Level Five, grew to 58.3% in 2009.

However, the report from last year’s Federal Government inquiry into gender pay equity, Make it Fair, revealed the industry-wide pay gap at the most senior level stood at 18%.

The AusIMM’s manager of policy and professional standards Monika Sarder told MINING DAILY the gap in gender pay across all levels in the mining industry last year was 40.4%.

“While it is very disappointing the gap is so large across all industries, the fact it is so much more significant at the higher levels in the mining industry is staggering,” she said.

The figures from the AusIMM survey revealed the pay gap doubled at some levels as the economic downturn took hold last year.

“Companies look to hold on to their more valued and experienced staff in difficult times and the survey suggests that these initiatives are often not extended to female employees,” Sarder said.

Sarder, who is also a member of AusIMM’s Women in Mining Committee, believes some employers in the industry still retain some bias towards women, especially at the higher levels of responsibility.

“I think some hold the view that women are less valuable to a workplace, because they can seek maternity leave and part-time hours,” she said.

“There could be other reasons, of course, such as structural changes within a company in response to the downturn.

“For instance, women are more likely than men to be geologists and geoscientists.

“In a downturn, geologists are probably more likely to be made redundant, because there will be less exploration.”

According to Sarder, many females are also often employed as consultants and, like all contractors, are therefore more vulnerable in a downturn.

“However, this also begs the question why more women are not found in key roles within the larger mining companies,” she said.

Despite the increase in pay inequity, Sarder believes the mining industry is taking the issue seriously.

“The Minerals Councils are starting up a number of initiatives aimed at attracting women to mining and promoting career paths,” she said.

“Similarly, some companies are actively auditing gender pay equity and looking at job-share arrangements and flexible hours for parents.

“There are some laggards, but there is a really strong will coming out of the industry.”

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