Media Release: A woman's guide to thriving in mining

| Share

1 September 2011

Know yourself, be thick skinned and regulate your emotions! These are just some of the tips being promoted to mining women as part of AIMEX – Asia-Pacific’s International Mining Exhibition 2011 in Sydney next week.

Mining Family Matters psychologist Angie Willcocks will join an expert panel offering guidance to mining women at the expo on Wednesday. She says mining offers great opportunities for women who can adapt to life in a male-dominated industry.

Ms Willcocks says women in mining need to understand their personal values, goals, strengths and weaknesses and strive to keep moving forward – personally and professionally – when the going gets tough.

"This might sound obvious, but any woman considering a mining career should acknowledge from the outset that she is entering a male-dominated industry," Ms Willcocks says. "There's no point getting onto an outback mine site and realising you can’t handle the blokey culture.

"It’s worth drawing up a personalised management plan that considers the specific job as well as your own history and personality. A woman who grew up with three brothers, for example, will probably cope on an all-male mining team much better than a woman who grew up with few male role models."

Angie's tops tips for mining women are drawn from discussions with successful women in a range of male-dominated industries, combined with general workplace resilience philosophies. They include:

  • Understanding your own values: Identifying your core values will help you to make positive decisions about what you want from your career, and will guide your behaviour and attitude when the going gets tough. Your values will also help you to set meaningful goals. To establish your own values, it’s worth thinking about the people you admire (real people as well as fictional characters from movies etc) and name their specific characteristics. Examples are compassionate, assertive, strong, intelligent, innovative and calm.
  • Be clear about your goals: They will help to keep your mind occupied with problem solving at challenging times. Enlist the support of a trusted manager or supervisor to help with setting and reaching goals, or seek external coaching or mentoring.
  • Adjust your thinking style: This includes positive problem-solving skills and an optimistic view of the workplace.  When working in a tricky situation it's important not to fall into unhelpful thinking patterns. Common thinking traps are ‘magnifying’ (blowing a problem out of proportion), ‘personalising’ (making the problem all about you) and ‘over-generalising’ (making any problem about your gender, when the issue might actually have nothing to do with it).
  • Emotional regulation: Basically, this means recognising that you are angry, upset or excited, but keeping these feelings in check so they don't feel overwhelming. Women traditionally tend to show their feelings more than men, and can sometimes let their emotions inform their decision-making.  Knowing yourself is important for emotional regulation – for example, what situations are likely to bring up strong emotions for you?
  • Impulse control: This is a bit like emotional regulation, but refers to behaviours. Good impulse control means that you are able to think and feel strongly about something, but keep your behaviours in check. It's not just about keeping your cool when you feel angry, but also about being able to act assertively even when you don't feel confident.
  • Look after yourself physically:Physical health is important for any career, but especially in male-dominated industries which might be more physically demanding.
  • Be prepared to work hard (maybe even harder than you think you should have to)
  • Pick your battles
  • Keep your sense of humour
  • Know what problems are yours to solve and what aren’t
  • Be thick skinned: This comes back to your thinking style – try not to take things personally. Let comments slide unless they are offensive or ongoing. 
  • Be willing to 'put yourself out there' for new challenges
  • Know your industry and join industry groups to promote yourself
  • Avoid sexual relationships with colleagues

"Essentially, working and thriving in mining is about being yourself – a really super, in-control version of yourself," Ms Willcocks says.

Mining Family Matters is Australia’s first online mining community and a supporting partner of AIMEX 2011, to be held at Sydney’s Olympic Park from 6-9 September. AIMEX is the biggest mining exhibition in the southern hemisphere, with more than 650 exhibiting companies set to spread out over 45,000sqm.

The free, one-hour Women in Mining panel discussion, 'Opportunities, Challenges and Personal Experience' will begin at 10.30am on Wednesday 7 September in The Hub meeting room near the AIMEX entrance.

Other panellists include Margaret Davies, Anglo American Supply Chain Regional Manager, and Yvonne Jackson, an exploration contracts administrator, representing Women in Mining and Resources Queensland.

Mining Family Matters will be located on AIMEX stand 8104, with free copies of the Survival Guide for Mining Families available to visitors. More than 23,000 copies of the guide have been sold to mining companies Australia-wide since its launch in March.

Mining Family Matters, sponsored by OZ Minerals, Caltex and Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, is also a finalist in two categories (Mining’s Female of the Year and Community Interaction) of the 2011 Australian Mining Prospect Awards, to be announced on 7 September.