Women leading the way in coal

RECENTLY the Australian mining industry celebrated International Women’s Day – which drew attention to women that are making an outstanding contribution to the industry. However, more needs to be done to ensure that they feel comfortable in a traditionally male work environment.
Women leading the way in coal  Women leading the way in coal  Women leading the way in coal  Women leading the way in coal  Women leading the way in coal

Diversity might be a buzz word in some human resources departments, however, it can also lead to better problem solving and safer and more efficient solution at the mine face.

Every miner has a story, just as every woman on site or at an original equipment manufacturer has experience and intuition that needs to be shared around.

One such person is Joanne Best, who took home a $32,000 professional development scholarship awarded by the Australian Institute of Management for being named this year's Women in Mining and Resources Queensland Resources Awards for Women.

Best is general manager of enterprise excellence and employee experience at Hastings Deering.

A mother of three boys, Best worked part-time for 17 years while leading major projects and teams on operational sites and in corporate offices.

With a previous employer, she was the first person to negotiate a job-share arrangement in a senior role, which led the way for others to better manage career and family commitments.

While at Hastings Deering, Best developed a program to drive flexibility, diversity and inclusion in the workplace called Together as One, on which she has also delivered a TED Talk.

"I have naturally started to shift from how do I not just do this for myself, but how do I do it for others in an individual way, through mentoring, through one-on-one relationships with my team and with my peers, and now through formal programs with Hastings Deering through our Together as One flexibility and inclusion approach," she said.

"It's simple, men and women want flexibility. Organisations that attract talent that way will keep talent that way and that's the simple equation."

The story of Kerry Koneiczny and her success in making mining work places more female-friendly is also inspirational. 

One of the few female shotfirers in the New South Wales' Hunter Valley, Koneiczny, was instrumental in setting up facilities for women including for breastfeeding mothers at the mine site.

After seeing a young woman expressing breastmilk in the bathhouse, she approached the site work health and safety manager about setting up facilities for breastfeeding mums to express and store breastmilk.

That space has now been set up.

"When I first started there might be four women on a mine site, now there would be several on each shift," she said.

According to Koneiczny, the increase in women in the mining industry has led to important changes such as the introduction of paid parental leave and return to work programs that support new mums.

Hogsback reckons these little victories for women at mine sites all add up and help provide them with the confidence to being a productive and valuable part of the coal mining workforce.