Women in Mining : Closing the Gap
The pay gap between men and women in mining is historically prevalent in the industry. A recent analysis of salaries in Australia over the past 17 years revealed that across all industries women earn around $13,000 less than men. Within the mining industry this gap can extend to $35,000. Western Australia and Queensland were reported as the states where women were least likely to achieve equal pay.
The gap does not initially seem to bode well for an industry that needs to attract more women. With the Canadian mining industry requiring 100,000 new workers within the next decade and Australia 170,000 in the next five years, the long-term potential for women in mining is considerable.
More can be done to make a career in mining more attractive to women. The President of Women in Mining Canada, Jean Lucas, cited the following as deterrents to attracting more women into the mining industry:
- Lack of flexible hours
- Unsupportive work culture – ranging from negative attitudes from male colleagues to a lack of female washrooms on mine sites
- Inaccurate and outdated perceptions of the mining industry as a dangerous industry to work in
- Absence of female role models
In addition, the increasing trend towards FIFO jobs makes the prospect of a career in mining challenging to women with family and childcare commitments.
Accurate and up-to-date statistics on the number of women in mining are difficult to find. The most recent figures relate to a 2010 report by Women in Mining Canada published in 2010. They reported that in 2006 approximately 14% of the Canadian mining workforce was female, although these were predominantly in administrative or catering roles. A similar trend was reflected in the US, Australia and the UK.
A further survey carried out in 2006 by the Minerals Council of Australia showed that women in mining are more likely to leave the industry on reaching the age of 34.
What can be done to attract more women into mining?
Executive Chairman of Women in Mining UK, Amanda Van Dyke and Barbara Dischinger of Women in Mining International suggested the following in an interview with Anglo American:
Identify the differentiating needs of women at various stages in their career rather than as a whole. For example, young women in mining starting out in their careers won’t be affected by the work-life balance considerations as would more mature women looking to start a family.
Other considerations might include:
- Jobs that support a female lifestyle such as maternity leave and flexible working hours to increase retention.
- Encourage women through professional development incentives - a move into senior roles through training, especially in leadership and management skills.
Many opportunities await women in mining. While the global mining workforce remains predominantly male, in some places women are making significant inroads into senior mining positions. Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines is an Australian joint venture in which Newmont Mining and Barrick both hold a 50% share. The company employs 213 women out of a total of 780 employees, representing 28%, employing eight women in senior roles.
The most senior women in the industry include Cynthia Carroll at Anglo American and Gina Reinhart in Australia. Earlier this year Reynolds Soil Technologies of Australia appointed Melanie Seal as their Country Manager for Argentina. The company also reported a 30% increase of women in mining specifically in its dust control business.
Barbara Dischinger also reported an increase of women in mining, specifically within truck operations as women take more care with the equipment, resulting in less damage and lower costs. In addition, Jean Lucas also noted that more than 800 people attended a reception hosted by Women in Mining Canada at the Prospectors and Developers Association convention in Toronto earlier this year, an increase of 150 on the figures for 2011.
Without doubt the opportunities for women in mining are beginning to open up across the global mining industry and they will remain an integral part of its future success.