• Lithium and critical minerals exploration boom boosting women in resources sector but leadership ranks lag
  • ESG and quotas boosting women on ASX listed company boards but time out for kids still has career ramificatons
  • Fintech Zepto reckons its flexible remote working culture helping workers manage family commitments

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) Tambourah Metals (ASX:TMB) executive chairperson Rita Brooks said the lithium and critical minerals exploration boom is also helping boost women in the mining sector.

TMB itself is named after the historic Tambourah Goldfield in Western Australia’s Eastern Pilbara region which was mined in the late 1800s.

Brooks has been in mining and exploration for more than three decades, since the gold boom back in the ’80s.

“The lithium spodumene-bearing pegmatites that TMB are exploring for in the Pilbara has the potential to increase supply of critical minerals and therefore I believe working in Western Australia in particular has untapped opportunities in the resources sector, especially for women,” Brooks said.

“The lithium and rare earths boom along with the easier access to mining sites has driven more people, both men and women, into the exploration industry which we love.”

Brooks said TMB is working in areas not seen as viable less than 10 years ago, which has accelerated workforce for both men and women.

“I think it’s a big plus that the extension and development of these big mines in the Pilbara for example resulted in a greater workforce including women,” she said.

“If you thought you needed 20 geologists for your project 10 years ago then you need 10 more to look at your critical minerals exploration now as well.”

Brooks said more women are starting to climb the ranks in resources companies as well but there is still some way to go and it will take time.

“You might have more women on the mine sites but the level of corporate positions is still sadly lacking,” she said.

Brooks is not sure how best to turn this around but said diversity quotas for boards or leadership positions is not the solution.

“100% of your board must include suitably qualified candidates,” she said.

“You can have the qualifications but the experience and boots on the ground counts so maybe in 10 more years we’ll possibly see more balance.”


ESG and quota increasing women on ASX listed company boards

Capital Outcomes general manager and account director Simrita Virk believes a greater emphasis on companies to be more sustainable and ESG-orientated is helping gender diversity.

“One of the hallmarks of being a sustainable company or an ESG is whether they believe in the principles of diversity and inclusion,” she said.

“A lot of fund managers are putting capital in companies that can show they are working towards sustainability not only in terms of  a better climate future, great supply chain metrics but also diversity and inclusion.”

Virk said we’ve seen the rise of activists in the investment management sector who are questioning companies on these benchmarks.

She said furthermore organisations like the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) are actively pushing for more women on boards.

According to the latest AICD numbers 34.2% of women currently sit on S&P ASX 200 companies.

“Institutes like AICD have been knocking on doors of listed companies saying you should have at least 30% of board members as women,” she said.

“The trend has been quite slow in Australia of having women on listed companies boards compared to the UK and US but there has been a slight shift in attitudes and we are seeing those numbers look better each year.”

Virk said the finance sector is part of wider society, which shows women enter the university sector at high rates and leave with solid qualifications but the lag comes when they reach middle management.

“When they need to take time off and have children is seen as the biggest crack in their trajectory and career,” she said.

“The numbers show that is detrimental to them coming back to senior positions and left behind on the race to the top basically.”

Virk said this is where government policies such as reduced childcare fees for the majority of population can help.

“We need to make sure the crack doesn’t happen in society and even in finance sector when women come back to their role they are not trying to play catch up,” she said.

“Having children and taking time off to raise a family should not be seen as a disadvantage.”


Hot fintech sector attracting women

One woman confident of seeing more women in technology, especially fintech, is Zepto chief product officer Julia Bearzatto.

She told Stockhead because there is so much innovation and growth in fintech now more people are attracted to working in the ecosystem, including women.

“Fintech is so hot right now, it’s fascinating to see the breadth and depth of fintech,” she said.

“There’s obviously a tech skills shortage across Australia but we’re fortunate that it’s an exciting time to work in payments and more and more players are getting involved in payments, so I am hopeful that will help attract more talent to our industry,” she said.

Bearzatto said at Zepto, 50% of its leadership team is women and they have strong representation across the board, particularly at a leadership level within their teams.

She said the company’s 100% flexible and remote work culture has helped, enabling employees to manage family commitments.

“Financial Services as an industry is becoming more accessible and it isn’t just about bankers anymore,” she said.

“Fintech creates significant new opportunities for women, particularly as perceptions continue to evolve and the ‘bro developer’ stigma/archetype continues to change.”

Bearzatto in the next five years she would like to see more education and awareness of financial fundamentals.

She said the more people understand financial services, “the greater their ability is to recognise the positive impact it can have on society.”

“With this greater awareness of what’s possible and the opportunities that exist within the industry, I think we will see more and more people attracted to a career in the space, including women.”

READ MORE: Stockspot has four steps to get more women in tech and finance

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Tambourah Resources is a Stockhead advertiser, it did not sponsor this article