Women at work - response to Crosscut Clyde

INTERNATIONAL Longwall News sister publication MiningNews.net received several letters about Crosscut Clyde’s column published on ILN yesterday, with most correspondents wishing to stay anonymous as they ventured to answer the difficult question of why the mining industry still fails to attract large numbers of women workers.

Staff Reporter

I HAVE been in the mining industry for the past 18 years, mostly on remote minesites, in roles ranging from accountant to eventually commercial and financial manager, part of the senior leadership team, at a mine.


I agree that more education is needed, but not of the women – of the men. Where there are one or two women in a department doing jobs such as geologist or engineer I have seen a number of examples of where they are indirectly discriminated against (shut out of discussions relevant to their role) or simply expected to think and act in the same way a man would in relation to a work task or issue that arose.


When they don’t think and act like a man (amazing!) their male boss doesn’t understand or value the different viewpoint the women has offered.


As everyone knows, people all think and act differently, and women often tend to think in a different way to men – not better or worse, just different.


It’s about time men are educated to value diversity of thinking, and not ridicule it or the individual.


If the Australian mining industry is ever going to move to 21st century thinking and meet its potential, we need to think and do some things differently.


Women have a contribution to make to the progress. If men make the mining environment difficult for women to work within, women have other choices of more egalitarian environments and will vote with their feet.


And in respect of women underground in the roles of the miner/electrician/tradesperson (ie at the coal face), I have personally seen the concept tried with just a couple of women working underground, but the males’ reluctance to accept them or give them a chance was apparently overwhelming.


I believe there needs to be a significant core of women working at a mine in order to make it successful. With a significant number, this gives women the support group they need to persist in the face of resistance from males.


I don’t understand why a number of males don’t behave in the same way to the women in their mine as they would expect others to behave with their daughters who worked in a mine. This is another area where education is needed.


- Anonymous

I’D like to give an insight into problems facing women in mining - but would like to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting any male colleagues!


As a female working in the mining industry I can give a few pointers to why there are few women.


I am an exploration geologist and have come across a quagmire of off-putting aspects of this industry. Sadly, most of them boil down to pure and simple sexism, which is not an easy problem to solve.


Some men in the industry, particularly those in operations, have difficulty seeing women in usually male roles (geo, engineers etc) and thus find it difficult to trust their judgement or follow their instructions; which is off-putting for a woman trying to do her job supervising a group of men.


Some male superiors are hesitant to give women the same tasks as men, for example in my experience, in a very remote exploration.


This appears to be put down to the fact that women are unable to cope with 'heavy lifting, vehicle mechanics and wild animals'.


All of which are ludicrous suggestions (as mentioned in the article, heavy lifting is covered by [occupational health and safety] guidelines so that nobody should be doing it).


In one instance a superior of mine found that my time would be better spent photocopying than doing exploration.


Some men in technical roles have difficulty listening to female colleagues’ ideas, theories or advice for no other reason than they are women.


I have done this role in my home country and had far fewer problems there. As much as I love my job and WA, I think that the attitude to women here is far behind the rest of Australia and the developed world.


Luckily for the mining industry lots of women are determined to look past these problems and develop their careers despite them. But it's never going to be a very attractive industry to women until men manage to treat them as equals.


Managers, supervisors and colleagues need to learn to treat the females they work with as equals.


You can put all of the effort you like into education of women but none of them are going to be attracted to work in this industry if it continues to be as sexist as it is.


- Anonymous


WHAT a breath of fresh air. All too often it’s up to women to raise the issue of the sheer lack of women in the wider resources industry.


Why is it that at such a time when we are all crying foul of the lack of available personnel for just about any job, have we as an industry not taken the issue of female participation in our workforce seriously enough to have made significant inroads?


I look forward to more of your thoughts on the topic.


- Keren Peterson, former winner of the Telstra’s Women’s Business Awards

I've been involved for over twenty years in mining, exploration, operations and consulting and have actively mentored women scientists, who invariably are still within the broader mining profession.


The bottom line is systemic and endemic to exploration and mining of the FIFO kind. Women (and parents in general) who have young children simply cannot find a work - life balance in the FIFO or extended roster type system.


All the women I have mentored have gone on to successful careers, in mining, geology geotechnics or academia, but have escaped the social isolation of FIFO, the bush and remote locations. All practice their professions, in largely urban settings, with access to childcare, good schools, medical facilities and all the urban trappings.


Is FIFO a system that in effect is for childless or single people ?


Albert Thamm, Senior Geology Consultant, Coffey Mining

THE Allies’ manufacturing during World War II was dependant on women.


- Anonymous