A new report and strategy paper will be released today to tackle the stereotypes around the nature of ‘women’s work’ in mining, utility and construction sectors.
There is a push for chief executives of these companies to mend structural problems and modify workplace culture to utilise the underused talent pool of women to tackle the country’s skills shortage, enhance productivity and steer the economy.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will urge employers to change the culture and address the gender balance when she releases the report today.
“These areas are growth areas for Australia and it’s important that some of Australia’s most thriving industries have both female and male talent,” Broderick told The Australian.
These sectors like mining are thought to be a ‘man’s domain’ and have failed to draw female applicants.
But even if they do, they have struggled keeping women on staff because of inhospitable workplace cultures and gender discrimination against career progression, the report said.
Mining has particularly failed to increase female participation due to long working hours and lack of flexibility and work-life balance.
“This is particularly true for roles where workers need to fly in to remote locations,” the report said.
“There is also a perception that organisations in these industries fail to offer workplace facilities and uniforms that are inclusive of women.”
The report, titled ‘Women in male-dominated industries: a toolkit of strategies’, said women comprise of 45.7 per cent of the overall workforce but they represent only 15.1 per cent in mining and 22.6 per cent in utility companies such as energy and engineering.
“Given this ‘war for talent’, some organisations in the mining, utilities and construction industries are advertising off-shore to attract employees,” the report said.
“This is despite a large pool of women in Australia who could have long and successful careers within these industries in both corporate and non-traditional roles.”
A recent study conducted by the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health in conjunction with mining, construction and service contractor Thiess showed women cope better than men in living the FIFO lifestyle.
This was attributed to the fact that women are ahead of men in understanding how they can reduce the risk of mental health problems that can result from the FIFO lifestyle, including working in remote locations and being away from family and friends.
Increasing female employment rates could increase Australia’s GDP by 11 per cent, recent data by Goldman Sachs revealed.
“If you match that (economic data) with the data around skills shortages, we are at the top of the list in terms of skills shortages and they are particularly in these male-dominated industries,” Broderick said.
“Whether in mining or construction or even in the defence force, women are about the sustainability of these industries.”
Companies like BHP Billiton, AGL and contractor John Holland have started to deal with the issue.
But most companies still have not tackled the issue, in contrast to other industries such as healthcare, education and retail, where women are employed in high numbers.