Women in mining, oil and gas: expert tips on getting started

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You're a woman who wants to get into mining, oil and gas. But how to go about it? Rob Sellars is a senior consultant with Constructive Recruitment, an Aussie specialist in technical and operations recruitment. Here he provides some expert guidance for women looking to enter an industry that already directly and indirectly employs 320,000 Australians. 

As a recruiter, do you find mining companies actively looking for female employees?

nullIn terms of professional mining positions which I specifically recruit for, the shortage for experienced candidates in these roles dictates that there is no bias for employees of either gender. Companies do actively promote and encourage women into these positions but a lot of this is done at undergraduate level and is often a collective industry initiative to encourage more women to study mining-related disciplines at university. I do know that mining companies, particularly the major mining houses, have taken great steps in recent years to improve their work environments and have policies and facilities in place to ensure women are treated equally and are catered for just as well as their male counterparts. Some of these initiatives include extended maternity leave, flexible rosters and work arrangements, couple's housing on site, breastfeeding facilities, women's style jeans and PPE and mentoring programs to assist women into moving up the ranks into senior management roles. I have also heard of particular mine sites actively trying to recruit predominately women in a certain number of operating roles too (which make up the majority of positions on a mine), as part of an overall diversity strategy to increase the number of women on their sites.

Are there any roles dominated by women?

My own opinion is that the so-called traditional roles (ie corporate and administration positions) are represented with the same gender balance as other industry sectors. Most positions in mining operations, however, have traditionally been under-represented by women and encompass operators, trades, engineers, geologists and senior management.

Have you found the percentage of women applying for roles has increased in recent times?

As far as I know, around 10-20% of Mining Engineers and approximately 25-35% of Geologists in Australia are women. In trades and operating roles, the number of women is a lot lower – well under 10%. Female participation in the mining industry has been rising steadily over the past few years and will continue to do so in the future. Women appear to be making up a higher percentage of the new mining industry recruits than men, so the gender balance is slowly changing. Key to this is a strong increase in executive and senior management roles that are filled by women which will hopefully place a higher emphasis on implementing policies that will serve to increase the number of women employed in the industry.

Would you suggest any particular mining roles for women?

I don’t believe that any particular role necessarily suits a woman better than any other, and there are women holding positions in most roles available in the mining industry - from excavator operators to CEOs. Some positions are possibly more attractive to women than others and some physical requirements for a job may be more conducive to a male undertaking it. In this day and age though, there are very few barriers for women working to get into any position other than your own natural talent, ability, attitude and motivation. There are online resources available that detail the different roles available in the mining industry and career pathways. I would recommended anyone looking to work in the mining industry to research what roles you wish to end up working in and then plan a pathway on how to get there. One website worth checking out is www.miningcareers.com

What qualifications will help women get into mining?

Remember that just because there is a huge skills shortage in the industry, it doesn’t mean that mining companies will hire you regardless of your background. It is like any other industry and you will generally need to undergo some type of formal education before you will be considered for employment. If you are serious about getting into the industry and have the ability to do so, my first recommendation would be to enrol in university and study either Mining Engineering, Geology or Metallurgy/Chemical Engineering. These qualifications are the most common professional roles in mining operations and the most likely to end up in senior management positions in the future. They also have some of the highest graduate starting salaries in the country and can lead on to very well paid and lucrative careers.

If university is not for you and you want a mining specific position, look at the diplomas and certificates available at your local TAFE in mining-related disciplines, or consider a general trade such as a boilermaker or a mechanic that are highly useful in mining. The most basic training you can do is to get a HR licence and mine induction ticket for your state and some training at a skills centre to learn how to operate mining equipment. These centres will often assist you in obtaining employment at the end of your course. You might find you don’t need any of this to get a start on a mine, but the more training you do the more chance you have of landing a good job.

There are many traditional support and administration roles on mine sites too: cooks, human resources personnel, cleaners, administration staff and stores people. Use your previous experience in other industries outside mining to apply for these positions but remember that the more unique the skill, the greater demand for it there will be and vice versa. Invest some time and money in training and education and you can build a very successful career in mining with companies that are eager to employ you and provide great facilities and mentoring.

It's estimated that women account for less than 20 per cent of Australia's mining workforce, compared with around 40 per cent of the workforce in general. But considering mining is generally thought of as a pretty 'blokey' kind of industry, that's not such a bad figure. In our 'women in mining' section, MiningFM aims is to celebrate women at coalface. We'd love to hear your story: how you entered the industry, why it works for you and any advice you can offer to other women keen to be a part of Australia's booming mining industry. Tell us about it...

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