Australia’s resource industry head body is launching a new campaign today aimed at boosting female numbers in the sector to increase competitiveness, productivity and economic growth.
The Australian Mines and Metal Association, in partnership with the Australian Women in Resources Alliance, have put together resources and a series of workshops to help employers to attract and hire more females.
The current representation of women in the mining, energy and allied construction sectors is just 15.5%, and AMMA director Tara Diamond told Women’s Agenda sister publication SmartCompany this isn’t good enough.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” she says.
“The research time and time again shows increased gender diversity, isn’t just something nice to do, it’s a must have as a business imperative. Getting the balance right increases the productivity, innovation and competitiveness of businesses.”
The first workshop of the series is being held in Brisbane today, with others scheduled for Newcastle, Darwin, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne throughout November and December.
This latest campaign AMMA hopes will help increase female numbers in the sector from 15.5% to 25% by 2020.
Diamond says there is also research suggesting having more women in leadership teams can lead to greater return in capital and improved economic growth of the firm.
“We won’t get there just through the companies working on their own cultures, it’s also a matter of improving the perception of the industry in the minds of women,” she says.
“Having strategies in place within the business is one thing, but businesses must also look at how their brand is perceived in the market. You need to have the perception out there that you are a preferred employer of women.”
Diamond says the industry has the capacity to be very attractive for women.
“The resources industry has one of the highest rates of employment growth, it has world-leading projects and many diverse opportunities,” she says.
“It provides opportunities for females to think outside the square about what career opportunities are available if you want a challenge and want to stretch yourself beyond the standard 9am to 5pm.”
The national campaign is targeted at HR professionals in the industry to help them build a compelling case for gender diversity and garner organisational support for the vision.
Last week Australia was ranked 24 out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.
AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said in a statement the fact Australia is outside the top 20 is concerning.
“Australia is smashing gender inequality when it comes to the high level of women in tertiary education, but we are failing to reap the return on investment with below-par rates of labour force participation,” he says.
“This type of change must be driven from the top of an organisation and workforce inclusion must play a central role in normal business practice.”
Dimond says there are multiple changes businesses need to implement to make the mining sector a more female-friendly environment.
“Firstly, the HR people need to be equipped with the tools and strategies to engage their leadership and also assist in the cultural changes within the organisations required,” she says.
“Cultural issues which need improving include having more flexible hours, having an inclusive culture and having the whole organisation supportive of having more females. HR people also need to be taught about the unconscious bias toward males when hiring which can exist and the benefits of having more females in the workforce.”
Diamond says the other issue for employers is to dedicate more resources to developing the existing female talent pool.
“You need to attract females, but also develop their talent and make sure they come through to management,” she says.
“It can make a big difference to a company’s profitability. Businesses also need to provide a supportive environment, like having access to mentoring programs.