Next week a host of industry leaders, suppliers and regulators will converge in Kalgoorlie to explore improvement opportunities in open pit mining. The core theme of the agenda? How to survive the tough economic climate through adaptive change.

The conference will be addressing a number of issues around automation and technology, energy efficiency, mine closure and geotechnical issues to name a few, all to help businesses better manage the bottom line.

But what of employee engagement and responding to the changing needs of a diverse and inclusive workforce? Motivated, qualified employees are what keeps business in operation day in and day out, so accommodating the needs of staff is crucial to maintaining a productive workforce, while keeping recruitment and training costs down.

With around just 18% of the minerals industry and 11% of the construction industry comprising of women, and with many of these females leaving for other industries, much needs to be done to retain current female employees, and recruit new women into the construction and resources industry to ensure these workplaces have the full skillsets and abilities that gender equality in the workforce offers the economy.

To do this, employers really need to be having honest and transparent conversations with their female open cut workers, truck drivers, engineers and site supervisors (to name just a few!) about their motivations and challenges. Why did they choose this industry? What do they love about their job? What struggles do they face in doing their job? Only then can we start to look at the strategies needed to increase the female working population in these industries. These strategies need to filter into primary and secondary schools with STEM offerings and try’a trade experiences, the trade training and education industry with improved course development and in the workplaces themselves, with modified HR practices.

Personally, I’ve worked extremely hard over the past three years to help bring change to women in the resources and construction industry with the introduction of She’s Empowered. I listened to the gripes of my colleagues in oversized, ill-fitting uniforms, and went about designing a practical, fitting, safe alternative. I’ve visited textile factories and complied with Australian safety standards, and quite literally knocked on doors of procurement managers and CEOs to address the issue of gender equality in the workforce. I know that women who feel comfortable have more confidence in themselves, which means increased productively and safety in the workforce.

So while the heads of conglomerates get together next week to discuss change at an executive level, I’ll be on the front line contributing my own changes to the industry. Empowering women not only to join the industry, but to stay, and feel like an equal team member every day they put their uniform on.

What change would you like to see in the industry?

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