Women in mining: Inspiring inclusion

For a long time, the workforce, along with the resources sector was not considered a place for women to be a part of. 

Now there is a shift in mindset and desire for change, and at the same time, women across the nation are shedding light on the importance of females in the mining industry. 

As today (8 March 2024), marks the annual International Women’s Day (IWD), women across that sector that come from different walks of life share their stories and experiences while working in the industry. 

Speaking to Mining.com.au, Agrimin (ASX:AMN) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Debbie Morrow says that she had spent the first part of her career on the larger end of town, where she had resources, systems, and people around for support in contrast to working with a small-cap ASX-listed company. 

“Obviously we go through commodity cycles and there are downturns, but when you are working for a small cap that’s ASX-listed, the regulatory profile is heightened when you are the CEO and MD.”

She explains to this news service that her position with Agrimin and her approach to work is a ‘roll up your sleeves and do a bit of everything’. 

Yet, one of the toughest challenges she has faced throughout her entire career is remaining true to herself. 

“It might sound like a bit of a weird answer, rather than an example specifically, but there’s many times in my career where I was given lots of advice, mainly because of my gender. 

At the end of the day, yes, you have to grow and evolve and you have to be a suitable candidate for every role that you are put into. But staying true to yourself, believing in yourself, and supporting others around you is what matters.”

Mining can be cyclical, and Xplore Resources CEO Kim Wainwright explains to this new service that as a business owner, keeping a business afloat can be a real challenge at times. When Wainwright first started Xplore Resources she explains that sometimes she was the only woman in the room with hundreds of men. 

“Now, it’s quite fulfilling to look back and say, well, I actually travelled to grow the business before I had substantial contracts and all of that. I had to travel and actually go and meet with people in regional areas and I got to learn from that, which was phenomenal for me.”

Inspiring change

As Mining.com.au previously reported, this year’s IWD theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’, which is focusing on forging a more inclusive space for females. 

Morrow says that collectively we have opened up more in believing that women can perform all roles across the mining sector, not just some of them. 

“You know that old quote, ‘It’s hard to be, what you can’t see’, I think we’ve come a long way in that aspect.”

Lodestar Resources (ASX:LSR) Exploration Manager Coraline Blaud tells this news service that with time, Australia has evolved on the fact that women no longer have to prove themselves as being a capable person to do the job. 

“It has become more accepted that it does not matter, you can be competent and you do not have to prove yourself just because you’re a woman.”

Xplore Resources’ Wainwright says there is some ‘historical thinking’ around mining and when she first started her company, there were not many females doing what she is doing now. 

“There weren’t many women who were doing this a decade ago and who had the same type of business. To get my foot in the door, I travelled around Queensland and went to mine sites where I could or I’d meet with people who worked there in the community.

Then I had a baby while I started Xplore, which most people go, are you crazy? But every time someone says that to me, it turns out to be the best decision.”

As more women across the sector are feeling recognised as a capable and competent person for the jobs that they have, the more proud and fulfilled they feel and are able to put that energy into supporting younger generations joining the sector. 

Companies such as mining and agricultural giant Hancock Prospecting lead by example as in late January 2023, Executive Chairman Gina Rinehart shared the world’s first pink trucks, locomotives, WHIMS plants, and other pink mining equipment to support breast cancer sufferers. 

Rinehart says: “Women at Roy Hill work at the only mine in the world where technology and operational responsibility join with breast cancer support.”

Agrimin’s Morrow says she is at a stage in her life where she is able to invest in helping others that are choosing to join the workforce. 

“We’ve got some awesome talent out there and a lot of women in our industry lack the confidence to back themselves.” 

Morrow expresses to Mining.com.au, that although it sounds ‘stereotypical’, it is blatantly clear that mining is a male-dominated industry. 

“How we make sure that women feel comfortable in this environment and confident in their own abilities is key, I think, to continuing to shift that gender diversity.”

Tan Mears from Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) and Women in Resources Awards (WIRA) finalist for 2022 explains that as the momentum of this positive movement continues, it is important that the sector starts to look to the next generation of women also.

“We want the mining and the resources sector to be an industry that young girls dream of working in. We want it to be the number one option for girls that are going through high school, choosing their subjects, their career options and to make that choice.”

Inclusion is important

Inclusivity is important across all sectors and mining companies, such as BHP have begun implementing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion into their workforce. 

PRL Group (ASX:PRG) Company Secretary Elizabeth Lee adds that while working in the sector, one of the biggest achievements she has experienced is the feeling of acceptance for being able to fulfil her role. 

“I suppose, my biggest achievement, while working with men, is to be accepted that you can do the job. You know, she can do the job, so we’re not going to discount her.”

According to mining recruiters MPI Recruiters, BHP (ASX:BHP) was one of the first resources companies to set an ‘aspirational’ goal for gender balance by 2025. 

In 2016, the company’s global workforce was around 17% female, while in late 2022, the company’s female representation was more than 33%. 

Lodestar’s Blaud points out that companies should not hire someone based on their gender, but based on their qualifications and abilities. Yet she acknowledges that the more women that are seen in the sector, the more influence it may potentially have on younger generations.  

“If you want equality, you shouldn’t force a woman to fill up the role, you should employ people that fit and qualify for the role. 

But at the same time, I would say that the more and more you have women enter the industry, the more you have the younger generation looking up to the people working in there and thinking that they could imagine themselves doing that job. 

By promoting the fact that the work is doable and does not have to be scary for females.”

Today, the resources sector is celebrating the achievements of women in mining and continuing to highlight that it is an inclusive and inspiring space to be a part of. 

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au   

Images: PRL & Lodestar
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Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.