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Women in Mining Survey 2021

Women in Mining Survey 2021

Executive summary

This report on the 2021 AusIMM Women in Mining Survey provides data, insights and trends from the leading survey of women’s participation and experiences in the mining industry.

Some of the most pertinent findings from this year’s survey indicate that:

  • women still report that their own workplaces are significantly more inclusive than their perception of the broader resources sector.
  • amenities are improving, with 67.0% of female respondents rating amenities as good or very good, an increase of 7.5% on previous years.
  • travel support is improving, with 73.0% of female respondents rating employer support for travel as good or very good, an increase of 10.0% on previous years.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in resources are five times more likely to have high school graduate as their highest form of qualification, compared to the survey average.
  • Leadership is rated by 79.0% of women in resources as being a top priority for diversity and inclusion in the sector, and is identified as a key professional development priority by 55.0% of respondents.
  • The on-site experience is improving for many women in resources, but workforce flexibility and support to manage inter-role conflict continue to be key challenges.

The full report helps inform the industry, governments and individuals on initiatives that better target the emerging needs and views of women in mining. Furthermore, the report is used by the AusIMM to provide an evidence base for current and future focus areas as we seek to:

  • attract, retain and encourage female resources employees from the widest possible spectrum of background and experience
  • foster a culture that reflects AusIMM values of integrity and respect in a sector that is open to all women.
  • foster innovation, creativity and inspire critical thinking from a diverse pool of female talent.
  • establish a dynamic atmosphere that leads to increased performance and greater female employee participation and workforce fulfillment.
  • enrich communication between female resources professionals and the community and industry they serve.

The full report is organised into four key areas:

  1. Profile and participation: key demographic insights about women’s participation in the sector, how these statistics compare to the broader industry, and what action will help lift women’s participation across industry.
  2. The on-site experience: key insights and recommendations from the targeted research carried out in this year’s survey regarding the on-site experience for women in resources.
  3. Perceptions and priorities: findings regarding perceptions of diversity and inclusion now, and what professional development, policy and strategic action could drive future progress.
  4. Future research focus: preliminary areas for further research in the next AusIMM Women in Mining Survey in 2022.

In 2022 AusIMM will continue to track the participation of women in the resources sector through the annual Women in Mining Survey. This year’s survey report will be a critical base to inform AusIMM’ s leadership in diversity and inclusion over the next year.

Profile and participation: women in resources

A demographic snapshot

Who are the women in the resources sector?

The AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2021 attracted over 500 responses from across the sector. Based on data accrued, women working in the resources sector are, on average, about 40 years of age (Figure 1), which puts them on par with the industry average. Reported annual earnings (Figure 2) indicate that approximately 75% of women working in the resources sector earn more than the average female Australian salary (Workforce Gender Equality Agency 2021). The high qualification rate of female professionals remains consistently strong in 2021, with 92.0% of respondents holding at least one university degree, if not more.

This year, there has been a substantial growth in the number of women who have worked in the sector for 5-10 years (Figure 3) which has increased by 5.0% on last year. This indicates a promising trend on female industry retention. However, most respondents have been in the sector for 15 years or less (61.1%), which is on par with last year’s findings (Figure 3).

Does the ‘average woman’ reflect the experience of most women in the sector?

It is important not to assume the whole-of-sample ‘demographic average’ reflects the position or lived experience of every woman working in resources. The survey results contain further trends that are significant in seeking to understand where the industry is at now, where it needs to go, and how it can get there.

Where and how do women work?

Data indicates that 61.3% of female respondents work in urban areas, 22.2% of female respondents work in regional areas and 14.6% of female respondents work in rural areas. Most respondents are based locally, and commute daily for work (50.6%) (Figure 4). The percentage of women working FIFO or DIDO positions remains relatively consistent with 2021 reporting at 19.2% (2020: 18.4%). The number of women working from home doubled in the past 12 months (13.5%).

The vast majority of women are working full-time (75.9%, Figure 5). This is a 4.0% reduction on FTE for 2020. Interestingly 15.9% of respondents work on a part-time or casual basis, which is an increase of nearly 4.0% on 2020 data. Unemployment remains on par with 2020 results at 3.0%, which is significantly less than the Australia wide average in 2021 of 7.7%.

Demographic insights: Emerging trends in 2021

Improving the mid-career “bottleneck”

One of the noticeable trends from this year’s respondents is the uptick of women who have been in the sector for 5-10 years, (21.0%) which is an increase of 5.0% on previous years. By comparison, last year’s results showed a concentration of women who were either new to or had significant experience in resources. There were almost the same number of respondents who have been in the sector for between 0 and 5 years as there were those with 11 to 15 years’ experience – both close to 21.0%. However, this year the 5-10 years has now grown to be the largest demographic, which could indicate positive retention trends for women in resources, or a slight reduction in the “bottleneck” identified in 2020 of womenseemingly failing to progresstowards more mid-senior roles in the industry.

The impact of COVID-19 on women in resources

Demographic data have indicated interesting trends possibly related to the emergence of COVID-19 and the immense global impact on travel, methods of working, and health and safety.

While marginal, the 4.0% reduction on 2020 data in respondents indicating full time work (now 75.9%) could be an indicator of the change undergone by the industry travel restrictions, and new ways of operating with reduced personnel where possible. However, given the impact of COVID-19 on the broader economy and unemployment rates (noted above, and detailed at Figure 5), the relative stability in female mining unemployment reflects the stability and operational continuity of the industry since the emergence of COVID-19. This is supported by stability in salary trends for females in the industry.

Women’s participation in FIFO and DIDO roles (19.2%) remains stable on previous years (2020: 18.4%), reflective of the industry’s ability to accommodate travel restrictions and border closures while maintaning the employment of their FIFO/DIDO workforce over the last 12 months. With the proportion of FIFO and DIDO workers in the mining sector, estimated at between 15.0% and 20.0% of the total mining workforce (Vandenbroek, 2019; Ker, 2020), the survey provides evidence that women do seek and have a representatively high level of participation in FIFO and DIDO roles within the mining sector.

On-site experience – in operations, maintenance, management and other functions – is considered an important step in the career progression of many ‘technical’ resources professionals. This is particularly true for professionals at the early and middle stages of their career, and for those who have not pursued university education. Supporting women in FIFO, DIDO and on-site roles is therefore critical to ensure access to the technical experience and knowledge necessary to advance to senior and leader positions within the mining sector. Seeing continuity of FIFO and DIDO employment is, as such, a promising sign for the future.

However, as noted above in Figure 5, twice as many women in the sector indicate they are now working from home. This reflects that many workplaces have pivoted to reduce staff in offices and on site, despite the mining sector being deemed an ‘essential workforce’ by state and federal governments during 2020.

Tracking the experiences and barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in resources

Reflecting our commitment to advancing reconciliation and supporting First Nations women to pursue careers in resources, the 2021 survey has for the first time encouraged First Nations respondents to self-identify and detail their experiences and perspectives regarding the resources sector.

With this being the first time that the survey has specifically sought data on the experiences of First Nations women in resources, and with a relatively small sample size (4.1% of respondents), this is an area that AusIMM look forward to investigating further in subsequent surveys.

Initial data indicates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face educational barriers, compared to their industry peers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were over 5 times as likely to have the completion of high school as their highest form of qualification, a stark contrast to the generally highly educated demographic of women in the sector (as explored in Figure 6). Interestingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents were more likely to hold a Masters Degree than the whole-of-survey average, indicating barriers are most acute at the early tertiary levels. This is an area that may benefit from further investigation.

The on-site experience: improving conditions to lift women’s participation and progression

The Women in Mining Survey has this year again gathered extensive feedback from participants regarding the inclusiveness of the on-site working environment, with a particular focus on issues affecting FIFO and DIDO workers and professionals engaged in technical operational roles.

Survey results, including qualitative feedback, are instructive for the design of mine-site working environments. Results offer insights into how industry can attract and retain professionals in on-site roles, particularly of a technical nature, and what initiatives will best support women’s participation across all professional areas of practice. An inclusive and supportive on-site environment is also vital to make the resources sector more attractive to women who have not pursued tertiary education, and support their progression into senior positions.

Results regarding the on-site experience also provide a comparative reference point when considering the experiences of women working in office-based or metropolitan settings.

Amenities and travel support are improving, but there is room for improvement on health services and childcare

Survey findings this year show a significant improvement in reported satisfaction with on-site amenities and travel support, potentially reflecting the focus across the resources sector on ensuring operational continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 7 shows that substantially more respondents rated amenities, food and travel support as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ (compared to average or below average). Of particular significance, there was an increase in the number of female respondents rating amenities as good or very good (+7.5% on previous years) and a further increase in the proportion of female respondents rating travel support as good or very good (+10.0% on previous years).

Both qualitative and quantitative feedback continue to emphasise a need to provide better health and wellbeing support on site. While there was a 5.0% reduction in female respondents indicating on site health services are ‘below average’, this was not reflected in an increase in reported ‘good’ or ‘very good’ services.

Many responses also highlight changes that would help to make the on-site environment more inclusive for all people working in resources. Respondents cite key areas for improvement including recreational options beyond the gymnasium and mess hall, including social activity spaces and improved internet connectivity so people can call home.

Further analysis on childcare, health and wellbeing is provided below.

Women on-site demand support to balance their personal and professional lives

Further work is required to improve access to childcare for on-site women in resources, with 3.5 times as many women in FIFO and DIDO roles describing childcare options as ‘below average’ compared to ‘good’ or ‘very good’. No respondents working in FIFO or DIDO roles reported childcare as ‘average’.

There is also evidence that inter-role conflict is particularly acute for women working in site-based and technical roles. Qualitative responses suggest this is largely a consequence of insufficient operational flexibility, with onsite rosters and work schedules largely incompatible with commitments outside the workplace.

Results indicate that measures to increase operational flexibility and support female professionals to balance on-site and off-site commitments is critical to drive retention and sustained career progression.

Women’s health and wellbeing is critical

Both qualitative and quantitative responses again show that healthcare requires further focus to improve the on-site experience for women. When asked about the quality of health care services on-site, 30.0% of FIFO and DIDO respondents indicated they believe health care quality is ‘average’.

Although there was a 5.0% reduction in the proportion of women reporting ‘below average’ healthcare on-site, there continue to be signs that many services are inadequate. Of note is the fact that almost twice as many FIFO and DIDO workers rated healthcare services as ‘below average’, compared to ‘very good’.

Responses do not emphasise a lack of operations-specific care or services; there is no evidence from this survey that industry is failing to meet physical occupational health and safety standards. Rather, female respondents emphasise a need to provide more support regarding women’s health, wellbeing and mental health.

The emphasis in responses on wellbeing and mental health is reflected an increased understanding across industry – including in research, academia and regulation – that there is a close nexus between mental health, psychological safety and occupational health and safety performance. This growing recognition is reflected in responses regarding the perceptions and priorities of women working in the resources sector, explored further in subsequent sections of this report.

There are signs of improvement regarding toilet facilities, but the disparity between the on-site and metropolitan experience persists

The 2019 and 2020 Women in Mining Survey results revealed a continuing challenge for women in the sector regarding toilet amenities, with a particular disparity between on-site professionals and their metropolitan colleagues. The latest survey has again investigated this topic, given hygiene facilities have a profound impact on the on-site experience.

Figure 8 shows there is still opportunity to lift performance in relation to toilet access, availability, cleanliness and hygiene, and a continuing challenge regarding time-pressures for women working on-site. There are modest signs of improvement, however, with the number of women in on-site roles who frequently experience time pressures reducing by 3.5% on 2020 results.

The disparity between women in on-site versus office-based roles is stark, however, with 16.5% of respondents working in FIFO and DIDO roles frequently experiencing time pressure, compared to slightly under 8.0% for women in office-based roles.

Perceptions and priorities across the resources industry

A diverse and inclusive workplace, but a less diverse and inclusive industry

The survey has again gathered critical data on resources professionals’ perceptions of diversity and inclusion in their own workplace, as well as in the broader resources industry.

Survey results show a gap between the perceived diversity of individual workplaces, compared to the broader resources industry. While respondents generally see that their workplace is ‘very diverse’ or ‘average’ (55.3%), only 34.8% perceive the same degree of diversity in the broader industry. The same is true for perceived inclusion, with 3.3 times as many respondents indicating their workplace has a ‘very inclusive’ culture (23.8%) compared to the resources sector as a whole (7.1%).

This trend is consistent across age, seniority, location, time in the industry, and salary.

Perceived equity and respect show room for improvement

In 2021, the survey has for the first-time sought respondents’ views on work-life balance, equitable remuneration, organisational agency and behaviour management within their workplaces.  

Overall, 57.0% of female respondents agree that their employer values work-life balance, 47.0% indicate work is valued for its quality (rather than the gender of the worker), 40.0% believe remuneration is equitable across genders, and 47.0% believe disrespectful behaviour is quickly addressed.

It is worth noting that responses to each of these questions are generally more positive for women in lead, executive and directorial roles. Of some concern, however, is the finding responses are significantly less positive for women in FIFO and DIDO positions. For examples, only 37.0% of respondents in FIFO and DIDO roles believe work is valued equitably, which is 10.0% lower than the survey average.

Figure 9 provides further detail on responses regarding remuneration and the degree to which respondents believe ideas are judged based on their quality (rather than who expresses them).

Diversity and inclusion are moving in the right direction

Notwithstanding the gap between perceived diversity and inclusion in individual workplaces compared to the overall resources industry, and clear room for improvement regarding equitable and respectful treatment, survey results do indicate that positive progress is being made in the resources sector. This year, the survey for the first-time sought respondents’ views on the direction in which they believe diversity and inclusion are moving. Findings are set out at Figure 10.

Of note is the finding that more than 16 times as many respondents believe the resources industry is becoming more diverse and inclusive than those who think it is becoming less diverse and inclusive. The proportion of respondents who see industry improving (62.8%) is also 1.8 times greater than those who think it is staying the same (33.5%).

It is also positive to note that 65.4% of FIFO and DIDO workers believe the industry is becoming more diverse and inclusive, which is 18 times the number of FIFO and DIDO workers who believe the industry is moving backwards.

This trend is reflected in responses regarding individual workplaces, with most respondents indicating their workplace is becoming more diverse and inclusive (50.7%) and substantially fewer indicating their workplace is becoming less diverse and inclusive (7.7%).  Results do, however, highlight the importance of ensuring progress does not plateau, with 41.6% of respondents indicating diversity and inclusion in their workplace is ‘staying the same’.

There is also some indication that FIFO and DIDO workers feel their own workplaces are not keeping pace with changes across industry, with almost just as many respondents indicating their workplace is becoming more diverse and inclusive (47.6%) compared to those who believe it is staying the same (46.4%).

Priorities for the industry and professionals

Priorities for diversity and inclusion

To create a more inclusive and diverse sector, women in resources report a clear need to focus on diverse leadership. Other top priorities point to some of the steps towards achieving this change, particularly by creating equal employment opportunities, supporting progression from junior to senior roles and, with this, focussing on recruitment and retention (Figure 11).

Equal employment and workforce flexibility continue to be strongly emphasised in survey responses. Inter-role conflict is a persistent challenge for women in resources, as they strive to balance roles as worker, spouse, parent and caregiver (among others) while continuing to pursue their professional and individual aspirations. Supporting all professionals to balance these roles is critical, and requires a sustained focus from across industry.

This report has elsewhere described significant improvements regarding travel arrangements, on-site facilities and support to work effectively in different environments (especially from home). These results remind us that the resources sector is capable of rapid adaptation, and that this same flexibility is required to identify talent and enhance the retention of talented women working in the sector.

Meaningful professional development will help to drive this continued improvement.

Priorities for professional development

Given the strong link between professional development, retention and progression, it is critical to understand and meet the professional development priorities of all people in the resources industry. This year’s survey results again provide a snapshot of the top professional development priorities for women in resources.

Professional development topics

The priorities respondents cite as being most important reflect many of the themes emerging throughout this report: leadership, the technical and professional competencies most relevant for the future of the sector and, perhaps reflecting women’s lived and worked experience during 2020, mental health and resilience. The full set of priorities are shown in Figure 12.

Leadership, technology, digitisation and innovation continue to be clear priorities across the industry. This, along with a strong interest in transferable skillsets such as project management, reflect a desire to maintain adaptability in a rapidly developing industry.

There is continuing strong interest in technical orebodies, closure planning, and finance. While these priorities scored lower than others, they paint a positive picture of women’s participation across diverse roles and disciplines within the resources industry. There are women working in exploration, operations, processing, closure, human resources and finance among many other fields. Women are on-site, in the office, and in the field.

Professional development channels

The survey not only shows which professional development topics are most in-demand, but how women in resources want to access that development (Figure 13). Results indicate broad stability in the channels through which women prefer to access professional development, with three clear preferences: conferences, face-to-face engagement and online reading.

Interestingly, there is a distinction between which of these channels women rate as ‘preferences’ compared to ‘strong preferences’. For example, 6.7% more female respondents strongly prefer face-to face engagement compared to conferences, whereas the two channels rate closely for ‘preference’ at 45.7% and 44.4% respectively.  

The overall preference for conferences speaks to their potential to be delivered in a hybrid (online and in-person) format. With hybrid delivery accelerating over the last twelve months, professionals now benefit from improved access to the breadth of technical learning, connection and network opportunities inherent in conferences. Hybrid delivery also facilitates delivery of on-demand content, allowing female professionals to access professional development at the time (and location) that suits them best.

With leadership, progression and retention emerging as key priorities for women in resources, qualitative responses show that there continues to be exceptionally high demand for mentoring and coaching. As one survey respondent explained:

The reason I entered the resources sector is 100% the result of joining a resources sector mentoring program, where I was mentored by an incredible female who had created a successful career for herself.

This points to the strong link between talent identification, retention and the opportunity for early and mid-career professionals to learn from senior role models.

Future focus: the AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2022

AusIMM will continue to undertake this annual landmark survey each year as a way of marking AusIMM and industry progress across key areas. The research is an important part of driving diversity and inclusion for the industry and providing key focus areas relevant to the experiences of a vast array of women.

Through the widespread dissemination of this research, AusIMM urges the sector to hear the views, concerns and priorities of all professionals in the resources sector.

The AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2022 will build on the findings of previous surveys, to track progress, and commence research into any new areas of focus. Priority focus areas emerging from this year’s results include:

  • the need to understand the experiences and barriers faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in resources, particularly regarding educational barriers, to inform initiatives that support their advancement within the sector
  • measures to drive continuous improvement and address disparity between the perceived diversity and inclusiveness of the resources industry compared to individual workplaces
  • the experiences of women transitioning between different working arrangements and environments, including return to work, to support both retention and career progression transitions to and from different working arrangements, including return to work
  • the experiences of women in relation to equitable and respectful treatment within the mining sector
  • the ongoing improvement of on-site facilities and amenities.

Our members and partners are critical for helping us identify the way forward. We invite further feedback from all participants and consumers of this year’s Women in Mining Survey, as well as this analysis. Please help us understand what is most valuable for you and your organisation, and what areas of research are most critical to continue progressing diversity and inclusion across the resources sector.


For further information on this survey or any other matters relating to diversity and inclusion at AusIMM please contact policy@ausimm.com.

 

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2020. Labour Force Statistics, Australia. (Cat no: 6291.0.55.003). Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6291.0.55.003

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015). Labour Force status by State, Territory, and Level of highest educational attainment (ASCED). (Cat no. 6291.0.55.003). Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003Feb%202020?OpenDocument

Ker P, 2020. ‘FIFO in a time of pandemic: too big to fail?’, Australian Financial Review, March 23 [online]. Available from https://www.afr.com/companies/mining/fifo-in-a-time-of-pandemic-too-big-to-fail-20200320-p54c2b

Vandenbroek P, 2019. ‘Snapshot of employment by industry, 2019’, Parliament of Australia [online]. Available from:https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2019/April/Employment-by-industry-2019

Workforce Gender Equality Agency, 2021. Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics. Available from: https://www.wgea.gov.au/publications/australias-gender-pay-gap-statistics

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