Mining shedding its ‘blokey’ status as the juniors start to bring in more females
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While the number of women in the mining sector is still a fair way from where many want it to be, there are signs that juniors and mid-caps are making headway on that front.
Typically, it has been the majors that have leapt ahead and grabbed headlines for their efforts in attracting women to board and field roles, while for juniors it has been a bit harder.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening though.
There are a few examples of small and mid-cap companies that have managed to convince the girls that exploration and mining is a great gig to be in.
Small cap gold hopeful Lefroy Exploration (ASX:LEX) is one such company with more women, including office staff, than men in its team on the ground.
The four females working for Lefroy fill the roles of “fieldy”, student geo and office support while the male contingent fills the roles of senior geo and senior “fieldy”.
Association of Exploration and Mining Companies (AMEC) CEO Warren Pearce told Stockhead many of its member companies were very focused on increasing the number of women working in their operations.
“This is driven by a desire to attract the best people and to improve the diversity across their workforces, including in technical and specialist roles,” he said.
“Not to mention, that greater diversity in the workforce is widely understood to produce better outcomes for businesses.”
Pearce said female participation in the mining industry was “certainly improving”, with women now working across almost all roles in the industry.
“And although many still see our industry as ‘blokey’ that image is beginning to change,” he noted.
“Greater flexibility in work rosters is also helping to attract more women to the industry.”
Pearce pointed to Gold Road Resources (ASX:GOR) as one example of a company leading the way in attracting more female talent.
Gold Road non-executive chairman Tim Netscher told Stockhead the gold miner’s workforce was 31 per cent female, of which a number belonged to the senior leadership team.
The company also has two female directors (33 per cent board representation) and 50 per cent of its independent directors are female.
Netscher agrees more flexible work rosters are important to attracting women to the industry.
“Improved rosters and site accommodation make it easier to balance home life and work life – something we are very focused on at the Gruyere gold mine and at our Gold Road exploration operations,” he said.
Having been a junior explorer at one stage, Gold Road is no stranger to the hurdles the smaller guys face when trying to encourage women to join the industry – especially at the exploration stage.
“I would agree that it is perhaps more challenging for a junior explorer to bring more female talent into the business,” he said.
“The likely roadblocks for juniors are associated with the nature of the core exploration activities, which often involve remote work for long periods of time with limited resources.”
Gold Road runs a graduate program that ensures 50 per cent of all its new graduates are female.
Netscher said Gold Road had been able to increase its graduate intake at a time when many other companies are putting their graduate programs on hold.
Gold Road also provides facilitators to the National Education Program (in partnership with the Gold Industry Group and Earth Sciences WA) to deliver in-class mining related curriculum to Western Australian school kids.
But Netscher believes there needs to be greater female participation at the university level.
“As a sector we would benefit from encouraging greater female participation at university level to grow the talent pool,” he said.
“The current female participation rate in geology courses, for example, sits at roughly 40 per cent.”
AMEC’s Pearce noted there had been a “significant focus” on attempting to increase the number of women working in the industry, with a wide range of tailored company and industry wide programs.
“AMEC has chosen to focus on trying to increase the number of women in board roles on junior companies, where women are severely under-represented,” he explained.
In February last year, Stockhead reported that women accounted for less than 30 per cent of board roles in small cap explorers and miners.
That is ticking up, however, with initiatives by not only the mining industry but also the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) across all sectors.
Meanwhile, Pearce said AMEC had also sought to bring more women leaders onto the AMEC Council to ensure that the association was representing the change it wanted to support across its membership.