April 2018

Addressing the gender pay gap in mining

  • By Workplace Gender Equality Agency

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2016-17 data shows that mining remains the most male-dominated industry in Australia, with gender pay gaps across all occupations and most management levels. But the industry has been working hard to change that

It’s a challenging path to the top for women who want to work in the resources sector. Across the industry, women are far more likely to be working in clerical or administrative roles than calling the shots from the C-suite.

Only 2.8 per cent of chief executive officers and 14.8 per cent of key management personnel in the mining industry are women.

Mining remains the most male-dominated industry in Australia. According to 2016-17 data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), just over 16 per cent of employees across the mining industry are women.

The traditionally masculine roles have remained that way, with women making up just 11.1 per cent of machinery operators and drivers, 13 per cent of labourers and only 4.5 per cent of technicians and trades.

However, the roles are reversed when it comes to clerical positions, with women comprising 74.3 per cent of clerical and administrative workers.

As with all industries and occupations across Australia, gender pay gaps in favour of men remain in place, although they vary by occupation and management level.

The concentration of women in lower-paying occupations in mining contributes to an industry-wide gender pay gap of 14.7 per cent in favour of men, based on total remuneration.

Pay gaps tend to be lowest for machinery operators and drivers: 6.9 per cent in coal mining and 8.5 per cent industry-wide.

The pay gap is much larger for women in professional, sales, technician or labouring roles. Professional women working in the mining sector face an 18.7 per cent pay gap and those in sales face an even higher pay gap of 29.5 per cent. Women working as a technician or in a trade currently face a 17.9 per cent pay gap, while those working as labourers face an 18.3 per cent pay gap.

The situation is slightly better for women who have successfully moved into management roles. The overall gender pay gap for managers in the mining industry is 7.4 per cent. Female key management personnel (ie members of the senior executive committee) across the mining industry face the largest pay gap of all manager categories, earning 15.6 per cent less than their male counterparts.

There are positive signs that leaders in the mining industry are taking steps to turn things around.

In 2017-18, 63 per cent of mining organisations had an overall gender equality policy. Although a gender pay gap of 14.7 per cent across the entire mining industry is significant, it is smaller than the gender pay gap across all Australian industries, which is 22.4 per cent.

Part of the explanation for this could be that the mining industry is leading the charge in analysing their gender pay gaps and taking action on pay equity. Over 81 per cent of mining organisations have a formal policy or strategy on remuneration and 45.2 per cent have conducted a pay gap analysis. Of those, 24.7 per cent created a pay equity strategy or action plan, 34.6 per cent reported pay equity metrics to the executive and 24.7 per cent reported pay equity metrics to the board.

All of these results are higher than the national figures and the mining industry should be proud of the action it is taking on pay equity.

Although the percentage of female managers in mining is very low, this industry has one of the best representations of women in management compared with representation across the industry. 16.3 per cent of managers in the mining industry are female, compared with a female employee representation of 16 per cent.

There are some other areas where the mining industry is also leading the way on gender equality. Women and men in mining can expect a better paid parental leave scheme than employees in other sectors. Agency data shows that employees in the mining industry benefit from 11.8 weeks paid primary carer leave on average, compared with 7.9 weeks of paid primary carer leave in the health care and social assistance industry.

One area where the mining industry could improve is in implementing strategies to support flexible working arrangements, which would benefit both female and male employees to balance work with caring commitments. Just 22.2 per cent of mining employers have a flexible working arrangements strategy in place.

WGEA’s data shows that gender equality in mining has come a long way. After all, it wasn’t until the 1980s that women were allowed to work underground in mines.

But our data also shows that the task of improving gender equality in the mining industry still has a long way to go.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency is an Australian Government statutory authority, committed to improving gender equality in Australian workplaces. Explore how the mining sector compares with other industries using WGEA’s comprehensive workplace gender data at data.wgea.gov.au.

Feature image: Polina Petrenko/Shutterstock.com.

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