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Gordon studied mechanical engineering at university
and when she applied for vacation work at a mining company
in 1999, was immediately asked to stay on full-time. Her
parents, however, were skeptical. “I like wearing nice clothes
and shoes and I don’t think they thought it would last,” she
says. At 24, she moved to BMA and rose rapidly through the
ranks from project to senior engineer, coal processing manager
to her current role. Last year, she was named Telstra Young
Businesswoman for 2010.
Gordon is in no doubt about the attractions that mining
offers. “In terms of pay and benefits, a mining company
offers the best you could receive. I’ve worked in Argentina, UK
and Germany – you can work anywhere in the world and the
companies relocate and pay for your travel. There are always
new projects, new technology. It’s very dynamic and changing
all the time. If you’re willing to work hard and have a go, there
are lots of opportunities.
Negotiating the Pay Gap
Nevertheless a recent survey carried out by the Commonwealth
Bank showed that while women will earn more in mining
than other sectors, their wages will be less than their male
counter parts. Collins notes figures publicized by Women in
Mining and the Australian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy,
show that the pay gap between men and women in mining
widens the higher up the career ladder you climb. In 2009, the
average pay for professional men and women in the mining
industry star ted at around A$70,000 for female entrants and
A$81,000 for male entrants (a 16% gap), progressing through
an eight percent difference for the second level, 14% for middle
management, 25% at the next level, until, at the senior
management level in mining, the average woman was paid
around $149,000 compared to $236,000 for the average male
senior manager, a staggering difference of 58%, or A$87,000.
“Although there are more women getting into senior
roles in mining, they’re often not the big paying roles. So
they might be working at the same level as a male colleague
but paid far less,” says Collins. There’s also the assumption,
found in other industr ies, that women with families are not
as career-minded. Nevertheless Collins is upbeat and believes
that in 10 or 20 years, we will see far more women working in
the higher paid line management roles.
Moving on the Stereotype
Certainly the skills and labor shortages in mining have led
the drive for more women to be recr uited into the industry
and was behind the 2011Women in Hard Hats workshop
held in Mackay. “Pathways’ is a federally-funded initiative
between CQUniversity and the Queensland Government’s
Office for Women. It aims to demystify what goes on in non-
stereotypical industr ies and help women break in to them,”
says Lyn Forbes-Smith, Pathways Coordinator.
Working with schools, industr y, the general community
and other universities in other states, it is exploring the
different routes into mining engineering in northern
Queensland and asking: What are the hindrances to getting
into the industry and what does the industry need to increase
employment and improve retention of staff?
Mining companies attended the Hard Hat workshop
with training and apprenticeships to offer across the board.
“They’re looking in non-typical areas, such as women in the
50-plus age bracket and the Indigenous population,” says
Forbes-Smith. At the workshop, women who work at all levels
– from senior managers to those operating machiner y – spoke
about the reality of work and life in mining.
Dark says that mining companies will have to be ever more
alert to the needs of women employees if they are to retain
staff. “I am a mother of two and it’s hard for me to get out to
the mine sites outside of Mackay because of the hours and
time. Mining companies need to look at the experience and
qualifications we possess and work it into a family-friendly
roster and nor mal business hours. I think it would impact
greatly on the number of women who chose mining as a career
moranbah woman Simone Forbes has become
the face of women in mining after she took out
the top tradesperson in the 2011 Queensland
resources Council resources Award for Women.
Queensland resources Council (QrC) Chief
executive michael roche said Simone was an
excellent ambassador for the resources sector,
as well as a mentor and role model for other
women working in her field.
the mine technician/electrician at Anglo
American’s moranbah north mine in Central
Queensland decided to enter the mining
industry after being encouraged by female
friends who were working in the mines at
“ When people say I couldn’ t do that, I couldn’ t work
underground, it just makes me want to do it even
more,” she said.
mr roche said the awards were an important part
of QrC’s Women in resources Action Plan, aimed at
improving the attraction and retention of women in
the resources sector in Queensland.
“ over the next 5 to 10 years we have to find tens
of thousands of people to support the expansion
of our industry in Queensland, so it is vital that we
encourage women, who are still significantly under-
represented in our ranks to enter and remain in our
Kerry Dark – CQUniversity student and miner at bmA
hay Point Coal mine expansion project at mackay.
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