Gender gap needs targets for change

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 07 Oct 2015   Posted by admin


While women represent more than 14 per cent of mining industry workers, a WGEA report suggested most are employed in typically female-dominated occupations, such as community engagement, administration and sales. Image: Rio Tinto

While women represent more than 14 per cent of mining industry workers, a WGEA report suggested most are employed in typically female-dominated occupations, such as community engagement, administration and sales. Image: Rio Tinto

By Samantha James

October 7, 2015

NEW data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) into the pay gap between men and women in management positions has highlighted the need for change in the resources sector.

WGEA reported in September 2015 that 28.9 per cent of women employed in key management personnel (KMP) positions across several industries were paid at a lower rate than their male counterparts.

This was followed by general managers at 27.5 per cent, then other managers and senior managers at 24.6 per cent and 23.5 per cent respectively.

The resources sector has the lowest percentage of female managers at 13.7 per cent, compared to an average across all industries of 48 per cent of employees and 34 per cent of managers.

The overall pay gap in 2015 was reported at 17.5 per cent; WGEA said that despite small fluctuations over time, this figure had remained virtually unchanged in almost 20 years. In fact, the gap was smaller in 1994 at 15.9 percent.

This was influenced by several factors, including discrimination, industrial segregation, occupational segregation and the under-valuation of women’s skills, the report stated.

For mining, industrial and occupation segregation were considered the most pertinent factors, with studies showing only 14.5 per cent of women worked in the highest paying sector compared to 57 per cent in the lowest-paid retail industries.

Occupational segregation studies revealed that even women employed in traditionally male dominated sectors – such as the mining industry – were in typically female-dominated occupations, such as administration, community engagement and sales.

WGEA used data provided by more than 11,000 employers in the resources, administrative, arts and recreation and construction sectors.

WGEA director Helen Conway said getting more women into male-dominated resources industry roles was a long-term game, but that mining companies were embracing the benefits of workplace equality.

“Organisations that make their workplace attractive to female employees will have access to a broader pool of talent and be better able to tackle skills shortages,” she said.

“Importantly, gender diversity also leads to improved organisational performance.

“Part of the solution involves looking at how gendered stereotypes about careers impact on the educational choices women make at school and TAFE or university.

“Many organisations in these industries are now going into schools to ensure young women know about rewarding employment opportunities available to them that they may not have considered,” Ms Conway said.

Several industry groups including WGEA, Women in Mining & Resources WA (WIMWA) and The Australian Women in Resources Alliance, a project initiative by The Australian Mines and Metals Association, have worked towards lifting female participation in the mining industry from 13.4 per cent in 2013 to 25 per cent by 2020.

Several industry groups including WGEA, Women in Mining & Resources WA (WIMWA) and The Australian Women in Resources Alliance, a project initiative by The Australian Mines and Metals Association, have worked towards lifting female participation in the mining industry. Image: WIMWA.

Several industry groups including WGEA, Women in Mining & Resources WA (WIMWA) and The Australian Women in Resources Alliance, a project initiative by The Australian Mines and Metals Association, have worked towards lifting female participation in the mining industry. Image: WIMWA.

While companies such as Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining have set individual targets to improve the percentage of women employed internally, the industry is hindered by political debate, according to Diversity Council Australia chairman and former chief of the Australian Army Lieutenant General David Morrison.

Speaking at the Women in Mining and Resources summit in Perth in September, Mr Morrison said it was “an insult to all the women in Australia” that the need to set gender diversity targets is an ongoing debate within political parties.

Mr Morrison told more than 550 delegates that Australia was at an “enormous distance” from successfully achieving diversity in politics and business. This was especially true in mining where less than 17 per cent of workers are women.

“If you don’t set a target what have you got to aim at?” Mr Morrison said.

“The rubbish that has gone on inside political parties about the wisdom of setting targets, for me, now in 2015 is personally bizarre and secondly an insult to all of the women in Australia.

“Setting a target is absolutely essential … and unless the boss sets the target and stands right next to it nothing happens.
“So you have to be a Prime Minister or a political leader or a chief executive or a chief of army. You have to name the target and you have to name it publicly.”

Mr Morrison said the strategies he used to improve the “deeply flawed” male-dominated culture within the army were applicable to “every sector of our Australian society”.

“The challenge for a leader that has seen the issues others haven’t seen is to find the language to change people’s views,” he said.

“We had, in my view, made a mistake. We had appealed to altruism and human nature. The language can’t be about being better human beings, it is about capability.

“If you appeal to men and women who are professional members of a workforce in a way that has them believe that whatever step you are taking makes for a more capable workforce, you have, in my view, a much better chance of bringing them in to your side of the argument.”