Women in the driver's seat

Kaylene Munro gains training as an operator on a simulator. The mining industry is looking to women as a solution to the skills shortage.
Kaylene Munro gains training as an operator on a simulator. The mining industry is looking to women as a solution to the skills shortage. Peter Holt

WITH some mine companies screaming out for workers, are women the answer to the skills shortage?

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has an aggressive goal to have 20% of the mining industry made up of women by 2020.

QRC chief executive officer Michael Roche said it was a goal the mining industry was determined to reach.

Meanwhile, Minister for Women Karen Struthers said mines would have to become flexible in order to attract women as the skills shortage ramped up.

"It is no longer the case of, can or can't women do the job, we need them," she said.

The government's Women in Hard Hats campaign was started three years ago and has achieved some great results.

"The feedback I am getting from women is that they are feeling so much more secure from the financial benefits," she said.

Mr Roche said the industry had progressed and women were part of the answer to the skills shortage.

"There is no use for ... complaining about the skills shortage if you are not succeeding in tapping into the full potential of the population," Mr Roche said.

"At the moment about 11% of women are filling positions in non-traditional roles, like trades and senior management."

Mr Roche said the new target of 20% by 2020 would raise the bar but some mining companies were already on the right track.

"There are sites with 20-25% females and it is rare to find a site that doesn't have any women," he said.

Mining has developed, and mental strength was needed, not physical strength, he said.

"The industry is still dealing with a hang-over from the (ideology) that mine sites are manly, macho and dirty places ... a lot of positions are in air-conditioned rooms and cabs now," he said.

The mining industry, according to unions is one of the only industries that host equal wages amongst the sexes.

"Unlike some other industries the coal industry rates are based on competencies held which means that regardless of who you are, it is the competencies you hold which determine the rate you receive nothing else," CFMEU district vice-president Steve Pierce said.

Ms Struthers said there was nothing holding women back and the key to attracting women was flexibility.

"I'm not sure if central Queensland mines have this now, but there are mines near Mt Isa, which have the Mum Shift... women can then work around the school hours of 9-3," she said.

"The more women working in the industry, the easier it will become, because there will be a better support unit."


Women in mining

  •  In 2006 only 6% of the mining industry was made up of women.
  •  Now (2012) it is sitting at 11%.
  •  By 2020 the Queensland Resource Council hopes to boost this number to 20%.
  •  For more information head to the Women in Hard Hats website at

Topics:  employment mining industry queensland resources council women

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