“I think it would be awful to be woman on board knowing you’re there because of a quota. It’s important that women are selected because of value they bring to the organisation,” the general manager of Solomon Mine at Fortescue Metals tells Fairfax Media after this week winning a prestigious Harvard Women’s Leadership Forum Scholarship from Chief Executive Women and Women’s Leadership Institute Australia.
Some policy makers have pushed for quotas for corporates as a way of boosting female representation on boards. Last month the Australian Institute of Company Directors set an aspirational target for 30 per cent of board seats to be filled by women by the end of 2018.
Shuttleworth, who has over 20 years’ experience in the mining industry in Australia, China and Tanzania, says she is open-minded about what kind of company she would work on as a director but is keenly interested in ASX-listed firms.
Shuttleworth is one of few women who have made it to the top of a male-dominated industry. She had an interest in science from a young age and went on to study extractive metallurgy and chemistry at university.
Part of the reason there’s a lack of a pipeline of women, she says, is because girls aren’t encouraged at an early age to pursue maths and science subjects. “We need to change that,” she says. “Teachers and parents need to be made aware that there are other opportunities out there. “It needs to be introduced across all our schools, and in places where students will see it – through social media and teenage magazines like Dolly.”
As winner of the scholarship she will travel to Boston, USA to meet other like-minded women making an impact in their sector.
Shuttleworth, who has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years including the 2012 WA Business Woman of the Year, hopes she can make it roughly within that timeframe.
The other aspect needed to ensure there’s a pipeline of women is to have greater mentoring – Shuttleworth herself is a mentor for female mining professionals – and more job sharing in the workplace so that women with kids can go back to work on a part-time basis. “We need to get over stigma of part-time working and job sharing,” she says. “This will allow women to get back into the workforce early and not feel guilty.”
Her advice to young women looking to make a career in mining or the wider corporate sector is to seek help from those who have done it, but also have the self-confidence to step forward.
Founding chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, Carol Schwartz, congratulated Shuttleworth and the other winner, Kate Gunn, who is the chief operating officer at the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics at the University of Sydney. “Both women are strong advocates, mentors and sponsors of other women in their professional spheres of influence,” she said.
Chief Executive Women president Diane Smith-Gander said, “creating the female leaders of the future is a numbers game”, and the scholarship program was part of helping get those numbers.