Letter to the Editor: Strictly Boardroom by Sabina Shugg, Founder of WIMWA

Monday, 24 November 2014

LAST Monday’s Strictly Boardroom column by Vikki Lauritsen and Allan Trench* prompted a response from Women in Mining Western Australia founder and chair Sabina Shugg.

I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to the letter to the editor from Anonymous as it was a big step for her to come out and talk about the situation she has encountered. In my years in the mining industry I have worked in many teams for many companies and I think that the vast majority of people are pretty comfortable with women in mining.

Saying that, sometimes you will get a pocket of bad attitude, a negative culture in an individual, in a department, area or even a mine. There are many companies, mines and individual sections of mines that have a great environment for both the men and women that work in them.

Most importantly, there are many fabulous and fantastic individuals that will work with you, support you and encourage you but we need to make sure you can find those people when you need them.

In 2003, after 15 years on residential and FIFO minesites around WA, I found myself working in Perth and experiencing some of the isolation described by Anonymous.

This was the impetus for forming Women in Mining and Resources WA (WIMWA) which now has 2000 members here in WA. WIMWA is a proactive and positive forum for women in mining holding eight to 10 networking events a year for 100 to 200 attendees, an annual seminar with more than 500 attendees, two mentoring programmes per year for 40 mentees each time, and most recently hosting the Diverse Boardroom Series that connects mining company board members with talented women from the industry from the WIMWA mentor cohort.

Many thousands of women and men have been positively impacted by WIMWA and the positive impact on these women has a knock-on effect to others in the industry.

What is it that we really want? We want inclusive workplaces where all are welcome and feel included. Regardless of colour, religion, sexual preferences or gender. For that matter, even if you have a bad sense of humour.

Are we there in the mining industry? I think some companies have gone part of the way but we still have a long way to go. We need change.

My favourite saying is from the anthropologist Margaret Mead “A small group of people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

I don’t know about you, but at times in my life I have felt like a lone voice. There are some changes that only need a single voice. But there are other changes that need more than one voice. There are many different situations that need courageous conversations.

We need to have these courageous conversations at the time so that it doesn’t happen the next time. I would suggest that you find a supporter/mentor and start working through the issues one by one with your manager to create the workplace you wish to participate in.

I think if you treat everyone like you want to be treated and you work hard and put your hand up for opportunities and keep focussed on having a good attitude you can get a long way. And that’s not to say that I have had an easy trail.

At times I have had my own struggles but you just have to keep getting up and keeping going regardless of what industry you work in.

We need to work together to support and advocate for women in mining. We need to do this. The mining industry has always relied on innovation and creative thinking and realistically we need gender balance to get that dynamic. We hear a lot about productivity being a key issue and thus innovation and creative thinking and the right dynamic is essential. We all need to work together to achieve this.

Sabina Shugg
Founder and Chair WIMWA www.womeninmining.com
National Lead, Mining Performance, KPMG

PS: I have perhaps erroneously assumed that Anonymous is in WA. Where else is there?

*The Strictly Boardroom column last week by Vikki Lauritsen and Allan Trench generated a lot of interest. For those readers who are not MiningNewsPremium subscribers, the article has now been made available to be read by all MiningNews.net subscribers. You can find a link to it on the homepage or in the related stories list on the right of the page.

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