• Mining companies have lower female board representation than any other industry
  • WISER new inclusive industry network of women in renewable energy, mining and energy storage in Queensland
  • Organisation looking to advance women on boards and in leadership position within the resources sector

When it comes to the resources sector gender diversity still has some way to progress.

Women in the mining sector were paid 15.1% less than their male peers on a median measure in 2023, according to figures by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

PwC research shows that mining companies have lower female board representation than any other major industry in the world.

According to the research the larger the company’s market cap, the more likely there is to be a woman on the board.

But one organisation in Australia is looking to change the representation of women on boards of resources and energy companies, while also providing an environment where every woman working in these industries feels supported.

WISER (Women In Sustainable Energy & Resources) Inc. is a new, inclusive industry network of women in renewable energy, mining, and energy storage in Queensland.

The not-for-profit was established by a group of like-minded women keen to increase representation in the sustainable energy and resources industries.

Co-founder and chair Jo Bergamin told Stockhead WISER’s mission is to support and advocate for women working at the forefront of these transformative industries.

She says from graduates to senior leaders WISER provides opportunities to network, learn, celebrate, and share ideas.

“The committee is comprised of female leaders who are all volunteers from industry, government and higher education.

“At each event, we’re seeing lots of new faces as attendees return, bringing more friends and colleagues. We’re extremely committed to supporting Indigenous and regionally-based women in the sector with our first event held in Townsville and one coming up next month in Mt Isa,” Bergamin says.

Indigenous artist Leah Cummins designed the artwork completed by 100 women at the WISER Collaborative Paint N Sip event hosted by Thiess in February. Leah is part of WISER history now as she adapted the final artwork into an electronic image for WISER’s graphic identity, entitling the piece, THE FUTURE WE CREATE.


Boardroom confidence for women

Bergamin says one of the major plans of WISER is preparing women for board and leadership positions within resources companies.

She says the company is currently in negotiations to establish a ‘Boardroom Confidence for Women’ course exclusive to its membership.

It is also looking at ways to support women where they are in their careers for future advancement.

“This year, we’re moving from straight networking events into hybrid educational events with a view to upskilling our membership and getting a percentage of them board-ready.”

“We want to not only retain the women in our industry, but reach the next generation too. That’s why we’ve partnered with UNIQ You, a not for profit with a mission to increase the number of girls considering and pursuing roles and pathways into under-represented industries,” said Jo.

Earlier this month, WISER showcased UNIQ You’s vision to enable high school girls to understand the career opportunities available in mining and energy at a breakfast event hosted by WISER silver partner u&u Recruitment Partners.

The large boardroom was filled with women keen to support, either by themselves becoming advisors or bringing their companies on board to extend UNIQ You’s reach.

“WISER and UNIQ You are doing things differently,” UNIQ You CEO Val Ridley told Stockhead. 

“Together we are changing the narrative. See it. Be it.”

In 2023 QEM (ASX:QEM) managing director Gavin Loyden promoted Bergamin to director, communications & sustainability to reflect her increased responsibilities in ESG reporting over the previous 12 months.

QEM is focused on developing its Julia Creek vanadium project in Queensland, which is one of the world’s largest deposits of the metal that forms the key component of the electrolyte used in vanadium flow batteries.

The company is also working with the University of Queensland and successfully recycling vanadium from industrial waste.

QEM Limited has signed on as a WISER Bronze Partner for 2024.

“We’re proud of Jo’s leadership in the ESG space for our size company,” Loyden told Stockhead.

Similarly, we fully support her to develop and grow the WISER network, seeing the value of more gender diversity in resources.”


10 goals to advance women in energy & resources

WISER has 10 key goals as it looks to support and advance the role of women in energy and resources companies.

1. To inspire and motivate members through sharing examples of successful leadership in sustainable energy and resources.
2. Positively shape members’ futures with professional development opportunities, mentorship, and support
3. Drive gender balance and strong representation for women in leadership positions in our industries.
4. Promote and celebrate members’ professional achievements.
5. Share our values with peers and colleagues and raise community awareness about the importance of the energy and mining sectors to achieving a sustainable future.
6. Promote our industries as meaningful career pathways to the next generation of women and increase participation.
7. Elevate women facing multiple avenues of discrimination e.g. women of colour, women living with disability, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), neurodiverse and LGBTIQ+
8. Provide supportive and varied opportunities for natural networking that accommodate members’ families and other commitments.
9. Support members to recognise and constructively challenge bias and discrimination in the workplace.
10. Identify allies and assist them to make space and elevate women’s voices

“These goals were developed and finalised at our launch event in December by women keen to be heard and contribute to the industry they love,” Bergamin says.


Backing of major companies and organisations

The women’s industry association has the backing of important companies working across the resources and associated sectors.

WISER Collaborative Paint n Sip with Leah Cummins, Bunya Designs at Thiess. Pic: Supplied

Global mining services company Thiess has become a WISER Platinum Partner for 2024, supporting the association from the outset.

Furthermore, The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) a national industry association is also supporting WISER with mentoring and scholarships.

Representing more than 550 members from around Australia AMEC’s members are explorers, emerging miners, producers, and a wide range of businesses working in and for the industry.

AMEC general manager of operations Kate Dickson told Stockhead the organisation is a supporter of WISER and the important work they are doing to ensure constant awareness of inclusivity in the resource sector.

Dickson says the mining industry has done a mountain of work over the last decade to rectify the gap in gender equality.

“This work does not stop now, and AMEC is encouraged by the progress of our members, as they look to grow female participation across their workforce,” she says.

“As more women feel empowered, safe, and trusted in roles of leadership, our industry becomes immeasurably better.

“Like any organisation, a diverse set of values and personalities delivers a well-balanced approach to handling challenging issues in the workplace and ensures employees are given every chance to succeed.”

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While QEM is a Stockhead advertiser, the company did not sponsor this article.