Celebrating women in mining in 2023

For International Women’s Day 2023, we wanted to celebrate the role of women in mining and look at female participation in our industry.

To mark International Women’s Day 2023, we wanted to celebrate the role of women in mining.

According to Women in Mining UK’s 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining 2022, released in November, female participation in our industry globally sits around 14% of the total workforce. Analysts at McKinsey put the number in the range of eight to 17%—and at just 13% at the C-suite level.

The Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency says, in Australia, women currently make up 16% per cent of the mining workforce. This is hardly a surprise when, until as recently as 1986 in WA, mining companies could be fined heavily for allowing women to work underground!

AusIMM’s Women in Mining Survey 2021 put women’s participation in FIFO and DIDO roles at upwards of 19%. (The proportion of FIFO and DIDO workers in the mining sector is estimated at between 15% and 20% of the total mining workforce.)

Encouraging female participation and leadership in mining

Mining is, undoubtedly, still a male-dominated industry. But work is being done to encourage more women into the industry, and to advance opportunities for women. At the launch of a mentoring program last year, Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) co-chair and Queensland Resources Council (QRC) board director Rob Jackson told Australianmining.com the resources sector regularly reviewed its performance and set new diversity goals.

“Women make up 20% of the sector’s workforce, with almost 7,000 now directly employed in on- and offsite roles, which is the result of deliberate goals and actions from across the sector over the last 15 years,” he said.

“We are striving to do even better. The QRC is forging ahead with plans to encourage member companies to reach 30% female workforce participation by 2026.”

In 2021, 450 women had graduated from WIMARQ’s mentoring program and 140 signed up for mentoring in 2022.

Doing the heavy lifting to support women in mining

All over the world, groups like WIMARQ have sprung up to support and encourage women in mining in recent years. In Australia, there is even an online community called Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia, which allows women with First Nations backgrounds working in the mining industry to connect with each other to “identify gaps for career progression and opportunities to improve for Indigenous women” and “promote culturally safe professional development tools, access to a community of mentors, quality opportunities and brokering greater relations with key industry stakeholders”.

Some mining companies are also performing above average on female participation.

In 2016, BHP was the first resources company to set an aspirational goal for gender balance by 2025. Then, the company’s global workforce was around 17% female. In late 2022 they were sitting at more than 33%.

In January this year, while addressing a Women in Mining Group in Port Hedland, WA, Hancock Prospecting’s Gina Rinehart revealed her enterprise was “higher than the industry standard, with 25% participation”.

“Metallurgists, engineers, mechanics, diesel operators, process plant operators, geos, train drivers, rail maintenance, drill and blast crews, and many other roles,” she said. “We provide development opportunities for women across our operations.” 

Celebrating International Women’s Day in the mining industry

International Women’s Day is a great time to celebrate the achievements of women in our industry. The 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining report is a great place to start. MiningDigital.com also has a list of 10 Influential Women in the Mining Sector. All across the country, AusIMM is celebrating women in mining today, with special events and keynote presentations from inspiring women. You can read some of their Celebrating Women in Mining series on the AusIMM website.

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Dan Hatch
Mining People International