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It’s no secret that mining and construction are male-dominated industries. You only have to drive past a construction site or visit a fly-in, fly-out dining room to notice the obvious gender imbalance at play, even today.

According to the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women currently make up a mere 16 per cent of the mining workforce in Australia. And in construction the number is even lower – women comprise only 11.7 per cent of the construction workforce. This compares to 47.4 per cent of the general workforce.

The mining and construction industries have a gender diversity problem.

It’s not surprising, given that until 1986, Western Australian mine owners faced hefty fines for allowing women to work underground. Even those with degrees in mining engineering, geology or metallurgy were confined to working at universities, teaching and researching.

In construction, the various types of discrimination women often experience as a result of the strong male culture that infiltrates the industry is an enormous barrier.

The good news is…

The good news is that Australia, along with many countries worldwide, has made significant progress towards gender equality in recent decades.

The doors to women’s employment in mining slowly began opening, thanks to a wave of women’s rights movements, government promotion of equal employment opportunities, and the fight against gender discrimination.

The construction industry, however, remains an exception to this progressive story.

And the gender pay gap in the Australian workforce is still prevalent. Women continue to earn less than men, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2019, the full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 13.9 per cent less than for men. Women are also less likely to advance their careers as far as men and accumulate less retirement or superannuation savings.

Fostering gender diversity in your organisation is more than just the right thing to do, it’s smart business.  Companies which don’t value gender diversity or encourage females to join them are missing out on the talents and skills of half of the population, as well as the varied perspectives and opinions that come from different life experiences.

Former West Coast Eagles Chief Financial Officer and General Manager (Finance, People and Business Operations) Amanda Cox said the Club valued representing the community they operated in.

“It goes back to that old phrase, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’,” she said.

“The great thing about what I’ve experienced, particularly in the AFL industry, is we’re all in this together. We’re competitors on-field, but we love to share off-field and ensure we’re lifting the standards for the industry and doing the right thing for our staff.” 

When workplaces are equally appealing to women and men, organisations naturally have access to a larger talent pool.

According to the University of Melbourne Ormond College Centre for Ethical Leadership, having more women in your workforce makes good business sense. The evidence supports the argument that a diverse and inclusive workforce, regardless of size and industry, generates tangible benefits such as increased efficiency, productivity, innovation, creativity and improved employee engagement and culture.

Workplace gender equality is associated with:

  • Improved national productivity and economic growth
  • Increased organisational performance
  • Enhanced ability of companies to attract talent and retain employees
  • Enhanced organisational reputation.