SA Mines and Energy Journal : June 2009
JUNE/JULY 2009 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 37 COMO ENGINEERS WORKFORCE Top jobs still male Few women stick with careers in the resources industry, but hopefully that will soon change, writes SACOME Director Skills and Education Antonia Mertiris. For many skilled and talented women, the resources industry is not the place to develop their careers. Women who do join this industry tend to leave early and continue their careers elsewhere. In Queensland, only two women have so far been given the opportunity to run a mine site, and one of them, Sandra Collins, was instrumental in making changes to the industry in 1985 by fighting for an exemption to New South Wales legislation that would not allow her to work underground. Efforts over the past 20 or so years to redress the gender imbalance in the industry have seen female participation rates rise, and yet women still represent a small minority of the resources industry workforce. Systemic and cultural impediments make it an unattractive career for many women, and the average age of females in the industry is much lower than for their male counterparts. Of the women who actually do pursue careers in the resources industry, most leave by the time they turn 34 – an age where generally most careers are starting to flourish. The industry is losing skilled, experienced workers and potential leaders by allowing this trend of women dropping out of the industry at such a young age to occur. Once the economic downturn begins to reverse, our skills shortage will again become an impediment to project developments, and this under- utilised workforce will represent a wasted opportunity for resource companies who do not actively try to recruit women. Recruitment efforts need to be matched with retention strategies that allow women’s careers to thrive, attracting them into key and senior roles. There is a need for leaders and mentors who understand the challenges facing women in the industry, and how having more women in senior roles will deliver multiple benefits. The emergence across Australia of “Women In Mining” groups shows how motivated women are to participate in the industry and develop their careers. In South Australia, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Finlaysons have developed a “Women in Resources” networking group. In March 2009, they held their first launch event for around 50 women in the resources industry. As part of its efforts to attract young women to the resources industry, the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy will be running an essay competition for female high school students where the prizes will be places at the SACOME Women In Resources lunch. We hope that motivated young women can learn more about the industry and understand that it is a career option not reserved only for males. It is evident that the industry is committed to remedying this issue and that steps are being taken to even the playing field and allow women to improve their careers in the industry. For example, in May this year BHP Billiton announced it was offering employees 18 weeks paid parental leave. Ideally, in 10 years’ time, women will be as well represented in the resources industry as they are in most other sectors. The industry will hopefully have attracted women into the workforce through the provision of part-time jobs; child-care support; ease of return to work after maternity leave; improved workplace facilities; clear career paths formed with the assistance of mentors, which lead to senior management positions; and a culture where women know that they can develop a career for life, not a career they have to farewell when they turn 34. See calendar on page 50 for more details about the SACOME lunch. SACOME is hosting a Women In Resources lunch on Friday, July 24. Three experienced and interesting women – Tara Halliday , Sharon Langston and Jacqui McGill – will share their thoughts and experiences. Jacqui McGill Jacqui, of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam project, has worked in the mining industry as a metallurgist for 18 years. “I have been lucky enough to work in some great locations around Australia, from country Victoria in the South to Jabiru in the Northern Territory,” she said. “I love my work! It is challenging, rewarding, and best of all, I get paid to do it.” Sharon Langston Sharon currently works as a senior development geologist for Santos Ltd. She joined Santos in 2003, after completing a Bachelor of Applied Science with first- class honours in 2001. Sharon has worked both conventional and coal seam gas assets, predominantly in the Bowen/Surat Basins and Amadeus Basin. Tara Halliday Tara joined Coffey Natural Systems in 1998 and is now Regional Manager SA and NT. Her experience includes management of environmental and social impact assessments, government and community consultation, and environmental management. She has worked on projects in Laos, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia and the US.
April May 2009