Addressing Gender Pay Gap in Mining Requires Proactive Steps

Published: 19/06/2013

10/10/2007, Published by The Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy

In a time of booming commodity prices, salaries in the resources sector have risen at a faster rate than for any other industry. The most recent Employment & Remuneration Survey of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (“The AusIMM”) has indicated an average salary increase of 18% over the past two years. However, the survey has also revealed that the benefits of being in demand are not distributed equally across the genders, with a significant pay gap between male and female professionals.

The survey shows that at senior management level males are earning almost 25% more than their female counterparts, with an annual average base salary of $201,992, compared with $154,846. Further breakdown of the figures indicated that the discrepancy is not due to larger numbers of women working part time hours.

“Controlling for hours worked, males still earn more per hour than women at almost every level,” said Monika Sarder, Senior Policy and Research Coordinator at The AusIMM, “The only exception to this is at graduate level, where women are paid slightly more. This may be due to companies wishing to increase gender diversity by seeking to entice female graduates with higher salaries.”

“However once professionals progress through to more experienced levels, an escalating pay gap emerges, ranging from 5% difference per hour for a young professional at Level 2 to 20% per hour for a senior manager at Level 5.”

“It is clear that encouraging gender diversity is about more than just increasing the number of young women professionals getting through the door.”

The results of the gender pay gap were presented at the annual Congress of The AusIMM in Brisbane last month. Addressing possible systemic barriers to recognition and promotion of female professionals in the sector has been identified as a priority for the institute in the coming year.

“The AusIMM will do all it can to enhance the role and participation of female professionals in the industry” said Peter McCarthy, the President of the AusIMM.

In the current climate of skills shortage, increasing female participation rates in the minerals sector has become a priority for industry. Without the capability to attract and retain women, the industry is effectively missing out on one half of the working population. The most recent ABS statistics have shown that women account for only 18% of the mining workforce, compared with 45% of the total workforce.

“It is great to see that increasingly companies, and industry bodies are starting to take a closer look at barriers to womens’ participation and advancement in the minerals sector,” said Ms Sarder.

A recent study by the Minerals Council of Australia showed that the most common reason women leave mining is to have children. Other issues were difficulties with long distance commuting, a desire to be closer to family and friends if living in a remote location, and management issues such as a lack of communication.

The Women in Mining Network (WIMNet), a sub committee of The AusIMM aimed at increasing women’s participation in the minerals sector, has recognised that lack of access to affordable child care is a major obstacle to retention of women in the mining. A major initiative in 2007 has been advocacy in favour of tax deductibility of carer expenses.

“For women working non traditional hours in remote locations, the only available child care options tend to be either in-home care or family day care, both of which are often exorbitantly expensive,” said Ms Sarder. “Many women prefer to move out of the industry then sacrifice a large portion of their salary on hefty child care fees.”

The WIMNet has also been involved in mentoring, organising womens’ networking functions and undertaking research specific to women in the minerals sector. Increasing participation of professional women in The AusIMM is also important as it gives them access to professional development and broader networking opportunities.

Supporting women in their careers and addressing issues around child care affordability are only part of the equation. The onus is now on companies to look at what they can do to address cultural and systemic barriers to women’s participation in the sector. Action needs to be taken to ensure that part-time work is meaningful for all involved, sexual discrimination is eliminated, and managers are willing to negotiate more flexible work arrangements with female employees. The AusIMM urges companies to research whether a gender pay gap has emerged amongst their own professional staff, so that the underpinning issues can be better understood and addressed internally.