AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2020

  • By Brigid Meney Senior Adviser, Policy and Media, AusIMM

Executive summary

This report on the AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2020 provides data, analysis and insights from the leading survey of women’s participation in the resources sector, with a focus on the Australasian region. The report offers industry, governments and professionals an evidence base upon which to build future efforts to continue creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for all women in resources. Findings are instructive for initiatives at the whole-of-industry, whole-of-organisation, office, site, team and individual levels.

The report is organised into four key areas:

  1. Profile and participation: This section explores key demographic questions about women’s participation in the resources sector, how these statistics compare to the broader profession, and what action will help to lift women’s participation across industry.
  2. The on-site experience: This section sets out key findings, insights and recommendations from the targeted research carried out in this year’s survey regarding the on-site experience for women in resources, with a particular emphasis on fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) professionals.
  3. Perceptions and priorities: This section explores findings regarding perceptions of diversity and inclusion now, and what professional development, policy and strategic action could drive continued progress for women in resources.
  4. Future research focus: This section flags preliminary areas for further research in the next AusIMM Women in Mining Survey, and invites future participation from all professionals, organisations, and stakeholders in the industry.

These four broad areas provide the structural base for this report, and point to themes that occur throughout both the qualitative and quantitative data generated by the survey. The recurrence of certain themes – the experience of women working in remote locations, for example – highlights where the industry is now, where it needs to be, and options on how to get there.

Some of the most salient findings and insights from this year’s survey indicate that:

  • women report their own workplaces are significantly more diverse and inclusive than the broader resources sector
  • equal employment opportunities, workplace flexibility and industry leadership are key priorities for women in resources
  • the sector can improve the progression and retention of its female professionals by focusing on high quality, inclusive services and facilities on-site; support to help female professionals throughout all stages of their personal and professional lives; and offering development opportunities to enhance best practice, prepare professionals for the future of mining, and connect current and prospective leaders.

AusIMM will continue to track the participation of women in the resources sector through the annual Women in Mining Survey. This year’s survey, the insights and recommendations contained in this report, and future industry-wide research are critical to progressing diversity and inclusion for all resources professionals.

1. Profile and participation: women in resources

A demographic snapshot

Who are the women in the resources sector?

The AusIMM Women in Mining Survey this year attracted over 700 responses from across the resources profession, with key demographic indicators set out in the figures below.

We see from the responses that women working in the resources sector are, on average, between 35 and 40 years of age (Figure 1), in mid-senior roles (Figure 2), earning between $100,000 and $150,000 annually (Figure 3), and have at least one university degree.

The largest cohort of respondents have been in resources for between 11 and 15 years (21.7%), followed closely by the group with 0 to 5 years (21.0%) experience in the sector. Most respondents have been in the sector for 15 years or less (61.9%) (Figure 4).

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?

Most survey respondents are based locally, commuting daily to a metropolitan workplace (61.4%). This is followed, though not closely, by women working FIFO or DIDO positions (18.4%), and then by women permanently based in remote centres close to site (7.6%).

The vast majority of women are working full-time (79.9%), with most women working either 40 to 49 paid hours (48.3%) or 30-39 paid hours (21.8%) per week (Figure 5). A significant proportion of respondents are working more than a standard full-time roster, with a total of 21.5% working more than 50 paid hours per week.

Remarkably, 11.5% of respondents work on a part-time or casual basis, with 8.0% of respondents performing less than 30 paid hours of work per week. This rate is significantly above the industry average, which is approximately 5% (ABS, 2020).

How do the statistics for women compare to the broader resources profession?

Certain demographic indicators reflect whole-of-industry trends, whereas others depart in ways that reflect the current state of women’s participation in and across the sector.

The average age of women in the resources industry is close to the whole-of profession average of 40, as is the broad annual income of between $100,000 and $150,000 (ABS, 2020). Women have generally been ‘in the sector’ for slightly less than the resources industry average of 15-20 years (ABS, 2020). More comparative research is required to understand the link between women’s remuneration and time in the sector, and how this compares to the industry average.

Survey results indicate as much as 94.0% of women in resources have an undergraduate or higher university qualifications, well above the whole-of-economy average of 50.3% (ABS, 2015) (Figure 6). A high proportion of tertiary-educated women appears to be a ‘push factor’ for remuneration and career progression, but speaks to the possible need  of ensuring women with high-school and vocational educations are supported to participate in the sector, remunerated fairly, and able to progress through to intermediate and senior positions.

Demographic insights: Lifting women’s participation across industry

The experience ‘bottleneck’

One particularly interesting insight from the high-level statistics is the concentration of women who are either new to or have 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%.

This finding may suggest that the resources sector is reasonably inclusive of early-career women in junior and intermediate roles, but that there is a bottleneck as women progress to middle and senior positions. Taken in tandem with findings on the uptake of flexible working arrangements, and the concentration of women in remote versus metropolitan areas, it suggests there may be barriers to women progressing through to more senior positions on site.

The career progression of women in on-site and technical roles

Women’s participation in FIFO and DIDO roles (18.4%) broadly reflects the proportion of FIFO and DIDO workers in the mining sector, estimated at between 15% and 20% of the total mining workforce (Vandenbroek, 2019; Ker, 2020).

Thus, it appears 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 lead positions within the mining sector.

Women are willing to participate in FIFO, DIDO and on-site roles. If they were not, their participation in such roles would not reflect the whole-of-sector average. But further work is required to ensure women are supported and included on-site, in order to increase female representation across the mining profession.

Insights on how FIFO, DIDO and on-site working arrangements can be made more inclusive – and in this way, more diverse – are set out in this report.

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

This year, the survey gathered extensive feedback from participants regarding the diversity and inclusivity of the on-site working environment, with a particular focus on issues affecting FIFO and DIDO workers.

Notwithstanding the emphasis on the FIFO and DIDO workforce, survey results – both qualitative and quantitative – show these insights reflect the experience of many women working on site. The survey also sourced data on the experience of women working in metropolitan settings, which is of course critical for comparative purposes.

We see that the priorities emerging from the FIFO and DIDO analysis offer insights into how the industry can attract and retain women in on-site roles. Increasing on-site inclusion, and participation, will support women in progressing to senior positions, and also make the sector more attractive to women who have not pursued tertiary education.

Amenities, food and travel support are adequate, but other facilities are lacking on site

Some of the survey findings reflect the ‘received wisdom’ of how life on site plays out. Figure 7 shows that respondents generally rated amenities, food and travel support as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ (above 50 per cent for each of these areas). Much of the qualitative feedback did, however, highlight areas for improvement here. Increasing access to health and fitness facilities, quality food (including food for discretionary consumption), and additional recreational options would lift the on-site experience not only for women, but for all workers in the resources sector.

These are areas some industry leaders have already begun to move on, particularly at the most remote operations where the ‘on-off’ roster is often one to two weeks. Responses recognised the measures taken by some operators, and reported they go a long way to improving the inclusiveness and overall quality of the on-site experience.

There is a particular need to improve toilet facilities for women on-site

Other aspects of the on-site experience emerge from the survey as requiring particular focus as part of a drive to improve on-site inclusiveness for women. The imperative for industry to address these areas becomes even clearer when responses from on-site professionals are compared to their metropolitan colleagues.

Figure 8 shows how women working on-site have also indicated particular concerns regarding access to toilet facilities. This is one of the areas that stands in starkest contrast to metropolitan and office-based responses. Responses indicate a disparity between on-site and metropolitan workers regarding the availability of toilet facilities and the cleanliness and hygiene standard of those facilities. 20% of respondents working in FIFO and DIDO roles experience time pressure when accessing toilets on-site, double their office-based colleagues.

The provision, availability and quality of toilet facilities on site is critical to lifting the on-site experience for women in resources, and an area where industry can take quick, cost-effective and responsive action.

More support is required to help women working on site to balance their personal and professional lives

Further work is required to improve access to childcare for on-site women in resources. Survey responses do not investigate whether women travelling significant distances to site wish to take their children with them, but industry should consider options for supporting families with children while parents are away on site. Options include providing childcare in hometowns and cities from which FIFO and DIDO workers are travelling and focusing on roster stability to support families in assessing, planning for and meeting their childcare needs while parents are away.

Women’s health and wellbeing is critical

Another area requiring focus to improve the on-site experience for women is health care. When asked about the quality of health care services on site, 26.6% of respondents indicated they believe health care quality is ‘average’. By comparison, 21.1% indicate healthcare services were below average. A further 21.1% indicated the question was not applicable, which qualitative responses indicate was (in some cases) because respondents perceived services as being ‘absent’ or ‘missing’.

Qualitative data also provides more insight on which services are lacking on site. Responses do not necessarily emphasise a lack of operations-specific care or services; they do not suggest industry is failing to meet its occupational health and safety responsibilities. Rather, services and facilities may lack in relation to person wellbeing, women’s health and mental health.

Respondents again recognised some parts of industry are beginning to take action in these areas, and commended further work across the industry. AusIMM also notes that physical and mental wellbeing are increasingly ‘on the radar’ of many government safety and health regulators, adding further cogency to survey responses. AusIMM believes that measures to provide more access to health and fitness, recreational and dining facilities would likely deliver a significant dividend for worker wellbeing.

3. Perceptions and priorities across the resources industry

A diverse and inclusive workplace, but not a diverse and inclusive industry

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

Perhaps the most striking insight from these questions is that respondents view their own workplaces as either ‘very diverse’ or ‘average’ (57.9%), but only 35.7% perceive the same degree of diversity in the broader industry. The same trend appears in respect of inclusion, with almost three-quarters of respondents indicating their workplace is ‘very inclusive’ or ‘average’ (73.0%) but just over half reporting the industry is ‘very inclusive’ or ‘average’ (52.1%).

This trend is constant across age, seniority, location, time in the industry, and salary. Qualitative responses do, however, highlight increasing concern about diversity and inclusion across the industry as women progress to more senior positions. The need to continue driving diversity and inclusion across the sector is, for some respondents, felt most keenly as they witness both themselves and their female colleagues not progressing into senior leadership positions.

These results in part point to the difference between diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about workforce composition – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other markers – and is in essence a reflection of inclusion. Inclusion is about culture and action: what industries, organisations, teams and individuals do to achieve diversity. Survey responses reflect strong progress to date, particularly for certain organisations and operations, but also reflect a clear need to do more to elevate talented women across into senior and executive leadership.

The survey results remind the whole resources community that the experience of every professional woman is unique. Women in resources do not necessarily face the same particular barriers as they enter and progress through the industry; working on site versus in a metropolitan role is a clear example. There are, however, strong indications about what matters most across the sector. Respondents express a clear desire to progress through to senior and executive positions across the industry and have a strong sense of the key priorities for the entire resources sector.

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 lift diversity by providing equal employment opportunities, supporting inclusion and career progression through workforce flexibility, ensuring facilities and services are accessible, and continue elevating talented women into senior and executive leadership roles (Figure 9).

Equal employment and workforce flexibility are 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. Responses indicate a need to focus more attention on flexible working arrangements, keeping professionals engaged as they adjust their working arrangements, and providing support to work effectively in different environments.

A significant part of supporting women to work in different environments is ensuring facilities and services are available and responsive to the needs of women working in resources. This report provides relevant insights and recommendations in the discussion of women working on-site, but the lessons carry equally for women in all settings. A workplace is not inclusive if professionals cannot access the services and facilities required to look after their own health and wellbeing and that of their families and loved ones.

This report has highlighted, at various points, the importance of keeping women in resources engaged and developing as they progress through the resources sector. Survey responses show the key to seeing women move into senior and executive leadership positions is equipping them with the full range of skills, knowledge and opportunities necessary to shape and pursue their careers in resources.

Priorities for professional development

Given the strong link between professional development, progression and diversity and inclusion, survey results highlight the imperative to understand and meet the professional development priorities of all people in the resources industry. This year’s survey has sought information on the professional development priorities for women in resources.

The priorities most commonly cited by respondents reflect the themes emerging from other parts of the survey: leadership, the technological and professional future of the resources sector, and staying engaged with current projects.  The full set of priorities are shown in Figure 10.

Leadership, technology, digitisation and innovation are priorities across the industry. Survey responses also highlight a particularly strong interest in leadership and project updates among intermediate and senior women in resources, reflecting their desire to keep progressing and stay connected to the sector throughout all stages of their professional and personal lives.

Other priorities reflect the distribution of women within the resources industry. There is a strong interest on technical orebodies, closure planning, environmental management, finance, safety and health, research and education. While these priorities scored lower than others, they paint a positive picture of women’s participation in all roles 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.

The survey does not only show that women want professional development, and what development they want, but how they want to pursue that development (Figure 11). These insights are valuable not only to companies and organisations operating in the industry, but to AusIMM’s own Branches and Communities of Interest. They provide clear direction for content development and help ensure that content delivers real value for women in the resources industry.

Respondents indicated their preferred professional development channel is conferences (34.6%), followed by face-to-face engagement (23.4%) and online reading (22.6%). This again largely reflects the distribution of female professionals across the resources sector.

The broad preference for conferences speaks to their multi-modal potential; they offer opportunities to view technical and non-technical presentations, read abstracts and other written content, meet face-to-face with colleagues and, increasingly, participate through digital forums.

Responses indicate women working in technical roles, including on site, see online and remotely consumable content as the best way to consume content relevant to their current roles. Noting the broad interest in leadership and progression, however, the interest in face-to-face development reflects the critical role of mentors and champions across the sector.

Priorities for policy and co-ordinated action

AusIMM develops policy, advocates on behalf of professionals and collaborates with industry, educational institutions and government to progress the best interests of those working in the sector. As the trusted voice for professionals across the sector, the Women in Mining Survey 2020 is instructive for the work AusIMM does to develop and implement policy in concert with our partners across the sector.

Just like professional development, survey respondents want policy that helps them be the best professional practitioners they can be, now and in the future (Figure 12).

4. Future focus: the AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2021

AusIMM will continue to undertake this annual landmark survey. The survey forms part of a broader package of AusIMM-led research that ensures the sector hears the views, concerns and priorities of all professionals in the resources sector. The research is critical to driving diversity and inclusion for all cohorts within the resources sector: men, women, indigenous Australians, LGBTI, and professionals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The AusIMM Women in Mining Survey 2021 will build on the findings of previous surveys, which is critical for tracking progress, as well as commencing research in new areas. Priority focus areas that emerged from this year’s results include:

  • equal employment opportunities, particularly where they lack across the sector and how inequalities can be addressed
  • measures to identify and action necessary attitudinal change across the profession
  • transitions to and from different working arrangements, including return to work
  • inclusiveness of on-site accommodation
  • the comparative quality of facilities provided for contractors and full-time or permanent employees
  • participation of vocationally educated and trained women in the resources industry
  • the experiences of indigenous women in resources.

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 the AusIMM plase 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

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