Women in mining at risk due to job cuts

More women than men have lost their jobs in mining, creating a further gender diversity imbalance amine manager has warned.

The new chair of WIMnet, an online initiative that aims to support women in the mining industry, warns that gender imbalance in the mining industry could worsen as more women then men are losing their jobs as production is slowed at many mines.

Kirsty Liddicoat, mine manager at Focus Minerals' Laverton operations, said figures collected by the advocacy group showed company downsizes were affecting women more, and suggested the trend put women’s participation in the industry at risk.

"We believe that the downturn that's happening at the moment is going to increase the gender pay gap and affect the number of women (in the industry)," she told WestBusiness.

"It could be because some of the first roles to go are the female-dominated areas like human resources . . . but from talking to people we do know that some of the people (losing their jobs) are in technical roles. We don't know why it is but it's something we think we need to look at and see what we can do to help."

Liddicoat said women still faced a number of issues in the industry including gender pay gap and discrimination or harassment on fly-in, fly-out mine sites.

"I think a big one in the industry is still discrimination and harassment to a degree," she said.

"It's definitely nothing like it used to be and it's not really obvious whether it's perceived or real but studies have shown women still feel there is some form of harassment and discrimination because they're female."

A new report released yesterday shows WA is lacking in gender diversity with women only representing 4 per cent of board members compared with 15.3 per cent in Victoria, 14.8 per cent in NSW, while the national average stands at 12.3 per cent.

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency’s director Helen Conway said companies had to do more to attract women into the industry.

"Companies have failed to develop and maintain a strong pipeline of female talent," she said.

Women are still under represented in the mining industry, making up only 22 per cent of the workforce in WA.

Figured released in July also show women are underrepresented in the construction and mining industry in NSW, with women only making up 11 per cent of the workforce.

"Little has changed in terms of representation of women in male-dominated industries over the past 17 years," the report said.

However, a recent Women in Mining Panel Discussion at the Goldfields Mining Exhibition said the opportunities for women in the mining industry were great.

Julie Shuttleworth, general manager, of Barrick’s Granny Smith Mine, said that the right skills and attitude was needed for the industry.

“You do need the skills, you need some experience and you need a really great positive attitude,” she said.
“I’ve never found my gender to be a challenge in mining and I’ve never sat around and thought that being a woman in mining should be any different.”

Elizabeth Jones, underground manager, Homestead Norton Gold Fields Limited agreed, saying that being a woman in the industry was a lot different now than when she started working in 1995 and it was the people who couldn’t adapt to women working in the field that were pushed out.

“The industry has changed so much. The overt sexism that there used to be is just gone and the people who couldn’t adjust their behaviour on those sort of things, couldn’t adjust to new safety regulations, couldn’t adjust to HR policies and if you have that mindset companies aren’t going to leave you in charge of million dollar assets,” she told Australian Mining.

Image: GRC Developments

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