Kate Hobbs & Aimee Chadwick behind mentoring programme developed for women in mining in Australia – 2 women making change happen

Published: 30/09/2015

New support system for SA women in mining

Aimee Chadwick and Kate Hobbs. Pic Roy vanDerVegt.

Aimee Chadwick and Kate Hobbs. Pic Roy vanDerVegt.

WOMEN within the South Australian resources sector now have a psychologist-assisted, mentoring program designed by the sisterhood to find career growth partners.

The pilot initiative by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM)’s Women in Mining Network (WIMNet) and SA Chamber of Mines and Energy’s Women in Resources South Australia (WinRSA) has matched 22 participants to mentors for eight months.

WIMNet chair Kate Hobbs, a former BHP Billiton projects manager, industry consultant and also a mentee in the program, said a joint effort had helped design a unique low-cost, flexible option.

“There is a real need to support the progression of women… and steady demand. “We felt that starting a program under the current market conditions was even more important due to the current lack of resources available within companies to support individuals, particularly minority groups such as women looking to develop in their careers,” Ms Hobbs said. “The support from male and female mentors has been crucial to setting it up.”

Decreasing overall female participation rates in the industry, down to about 16 per cent from 19 per cent three years ago, lower representation in senior management positions and an average gender pay gap of almost 27 per cent were other underlying factors that made the two groups decide to set up their own program to support women.

WinRSA chair Aimee Chadwick, group manager of organisational capability at OZ Minerals, said formal and informal mentors had worked as “soundboards” during times of change personally and professionally and during uncertainty in the industry. “Depending on the challenges I have faced, including in the lead up to maternity leave, returning to work, seeking out a change in role or new career opportunity, there are a lot of complexities to overcome in day-to-day work and life and having the support of a mentor can help guide you through some of these,” Ms Chadwick said.

Organisational psychologist Sonya Szell, who helped with the matchmaking, urged mentors to make the most of the relationship while it lasts. “Sometimes what looks like a match made in heaven on paper may not be so in reality. “What makes a good match is often more about personal chemistry… but I would encourage everyone to give the relationship a chance.”

BHP Billiton’s head of projects at Olympic Dam, Christiane Brendel, one of the speakers at the launch of the program last week, urged participants to view mentors as “mirrors”. “Mentoring is a key ingredient… but only a piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place for you to be successful.” Ms Brendel said. She also urged mentees to assess their passion for the job and industry, build support systems to achieve a good work-life balance, know their worth by building on their library of work and “recruit” the right mentors.

valerina.changarathil@news.com.au. See story online