Championing diversity and inclusion in the mining industry means challenging stereotypes, being uncomfortable and rejecting tick-a-box solutions.
Promises made must be kept, programs started must be given time to develop, and people employed must be supported.
These themes were explored by three mining industry experts in a wide-ranging webinar presented by the International Mining and Resources Conference and Expo ahead of this year’s conference in Melbourne in October.
Mining consultant and director of International Women in Mining Alex Atkins; transformation consultant at OZ Minerals Kate Hobbs; and WSP Australia regional general manager Nick Flanagan all agreed that all companies benefit through diversity and inclusion.
Hobbs says diversity and inclusion – be it because of race, gender or sexual orientation – means breaking down existing systems that may have worked for many years.
“Diversity and inclusion are about being comfortable with being uncomfortable because diversity is about difference – no matter the difference,” Hobbs says. “It is about being challenged in a constructive way.”
She said quotas for the number of women could work but needed to be supported within the organisation.
“There are so many intricacies to make sure they (quotas) do work otherwise they become tick-a-box. You are setting up people to fail if (those) around them don’t support them because they feel they are just there to fill a quota,” Hobbs said.
Flanagan agrees: “You have to be genuine about giving everyone the same opportunities. You have to provide an environment for success. It doesn’t happen naturally. You have to be patient and it has to be planned.”
The push for diversity and inclusion resonates with Florence Drummond, the co-founder of Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia (IWIMRA).
Drummond – who will host an IMARC Q&A session on understanding the cultural and spiritual values of Australia’s Indigenous community – says she established IWIMRA to ensure that Indigenous women are not forgotten in the push for greater inclusion of women in the mining sector.
“The engagements I have had over the past 12 months is that people are really wanting to know more and it’s really great to see that,” she says. “There are opportunities for us all to grow and to have future outcomes that we all talk about.
“Our communities are pretty disabled in terms of services and support. There are a lot of social hurdles. If we can at least gather financial independence that can help tip the scales in our communities.”
For Ms Atkins – who holds multiple degrees and is a recent inductee into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame – diversity and inclusion are about promoting ‘STEM women’, those with expertise in science, engineering, technology and mathematics and who are, among other things, mining engineers, geotechnical engineers, metallurgists and geologists.
She says lack of opportunity and workplace restrictions mean STEM women leave jobs with mining companies to work as consultants, to the detriment of mining companies.
“It’s hard for women who prefer working in cooperative and collaborative environments to succeed in an adversarial and highly competitive environment and there is often the subtle undertone of the double bind, which is that women who are assertive and competitive are bitches and women who are nurturing and supportive of their teams are not (considered) leadership material,” Atkins says.
“They miss out on promotions, the mentoring and the developmental opportunities their male counterparts will most likely receive.
“By retaining and developing mining STEM women it will increase their representation in leadership, which will have a compounding effect on improving the industry’s culture and public image, which will attract more top talent.”
Atkins will be part of an IMARC panel discussion on diversity and inclusion.
IMARC is fostering diversity at this year’s event, making a strong commitment to promoting diversity across all areas of the mining and resources industry with the launch of the IMARC Balance for Better program.
Diversity and inclusion will be a key theme across all areas of the event from technical presentations, investor pitches, the networking events as well as the conference; with the commitment of including at least one woman within each session of the program.