Diversity key to success
THE nation’s resources sector has been urged to embrace diversity and address the lack of women in senior managerial roles in the ‘‘blokey world of mining’’.
Speaking at the Paydirt 2011 South Australian Resources and Energy Investment Conference in Adelaide this week, Women in Resources South Australia founding member Kathryn Presser says a change to gender diversity is about managing a workforce, not generating change for change’s sake.
‘‘Research continues to show that women contribute a significant positive impact on board inputs and firm management outcomes,’’ Ms Presser says.
‘‘We need to not lose sight of this difference in perception as we encourage diversity, as statistics show that lack of diversity is an issue, particularly in Australia’s resources sector.’’
Ms Pressor says despite women comprising the majority of university graduates in 2009 and making up 45 per cent of the workforce, only a small number hold senior roles.
There are now ASX-imposed obligations and expectations on listed companies to meet diversity outcomes concerning women.
‘‘Listed companies, of which the resources sector comprises an increasing number, have to work out the best way to present meaningful policies on diversification that best represent their organisation,’’ she says.
‘‘But commitment needs to come from the top.
‘‘This commitment needs to embrace articulation of the benefits of involving more women, promoting and embracing such a culture, introducing programs that help develop a broader pool of skilled workers and in the selection process of staff at all levels.’’
She calls on companies to make a commitment to set reasonable targets and says research suggests a board make up of 40 per cent women makes the board function effectively.
‘‘Aim to reach this target in a reasonable amount of Presser says.
‘‘The emphasis has to be on reasonable times as these changes are not going to happen overnight.’’
Ms Presser says women should not be elevated to board or senior managerial positions as a form of ‘‘tokenism’’.
‘‘Unfortunately, the road to change
time,’’ Ms is long and maybe the only way to speed up the process is to enforce quotas,’’ she says.
‘‘We are now in a new era of governance and put simply, future boards and senior management roles should comprise people who represent more dimensions of diversity of gender, age, religion and sexuality.’’ She encourages employers to review employee selection processes and attempt to shortlist at least one female candidate for every position.
Ms Presser acknowledges that the changes will not be easy and recognises that male chairmen and chief executives who are used to leading like-minded men will find themselves ‘‘facing new and interesting challenges’’ by trying to employ more women.
‘‘These changes are not for the faint-hearted and companies should stop asking ‘Why aren’t women making it to the top?’ and start asking ‘Why aren’t companies retaining and promoting the majority of graduates?’, 60 per cent of whom are women,’’ she says.
More women need to be employed by mining companies to help them overcome skill shortages.