Australian miners strike a chord on gender balance

Published: 29/10/2016

Originally published by Herald Sun – October 2016.

Noted geologist and former CSIRO chief Megan Clark is one of three women on Rio Tinto’s board.
Noted geologist and former CSIRO chief Megan Clark is one of three women on Rio Tinto’s board.

AUSTRALIAN miners are showing the way for their global peers on gender diversity, with women holding about a third of board seats at the nation’s biggest resources companies to buck a tardy international trend.

Women account for 13 of the 45 positions across the combined boards of iron ore heavyweights BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and gold miner Newcrest, company documents show.

At a take-up of 29 per cent, that is three times the level of 9.3 per cent across the world’s 30 biggest miners by market value, recorded in a study by accountants Ernst and Young.

Vickki McFadden, president of the Federal Government’s Takeovers Panel and chair of Eftpos Payments Australia, is the latest board appointee at Newcrest, having started her term this month and joining two other women on the 10-person board.

Vickki McFadden is the latest board appointee at Newcrest.

The company, which had an all-male board as recently as 2010, this year reworked its diversity guidelines to highlight an inclusive and diverse work environment and career advancement at its international operations as key focus areas over the next three years.

Rio, too, has form, boasting former CSIRO chief and noted geologist Megan Clark alongside two other women among its 11 board members.

But that is not the experience across the industry, according to EY’s report, which found the world’s 30 biggest miners featured just 35 women across their combined 377 board positions.

The report, Has Mining Discovered Its Next Great Resource?, found that at such a pace, it would take another 23 years to achieve 30 per cent ­female representation — a level often cited as the “critical mass” of women required to have the maximum positive impact on company performance.

“The mining and metals industry has long recognised it has to do better with its female representation at the top,” EY Oceania Mining and Metals leader Scott Grimley said.

“Diversity of thought and experience, including gender diversity, is critical to unlock productivity gains and drive innovation.”

EY said sponsorship and mentoring programs, finding ways to attract talent to remote sites, and setting performance benchmarks would help ­improve the gender balance.