4.5 Gender and diversity

Another of the case studies included in the GCNA-MCA publication on human rights in the Australian mining industry described focuses on gender inclusion by Rio Tinto in its global operations, as this is a major element of human rights protection (GCNA-MCA 2013:30-35). In recent years, a wide range of researchers and organisations have been expounding the importance of diverse workforces and management teams as keys for business success. A focus of much of the research is on the inclusion of women, but other forms of diversity are also important, as workforces and management teams that reflect the composition of the broader communities in which they are situated have more credibility in those communities. The business success factors that emerge from diverse work teams include having a larger pool of potential recruits as an employer of choice, having a higher retention rate from a happier workforce, having a better understanding of the market through a broader employee base, and having a more varied talent pool, leading to enhanced creativity. Footnote 17

Recruitment diversity can be achieved through making extra efforts to encourage applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds to apply for jobs, by providing bridging support courses where needed for local community members who may have had fewer educational opportunities, and by ensuring that selection criteria and methods do not unnecessarily exclude people with non-standard backgrounds. The retention of a diverse workforce can be achieved by making workplaces family friendly, with rosters that allow for family time and provide for the care of children and other dependants.

Specific programs designed to support and encourage women and people from minority backgrounds to aim for and achieve management positions can go a long way towards creating a more diverse and effective management cadre. In addition, in community development activities it is essential for success that women and other sectors of society be fully engaged and included in project selection, design and implementation. It is equally vital that women be full participants in community engagement activities, especially in negotiations leading towards community agreements. References providing further guidance on such programs are listed in the 'Further reading' section of this handbook.

Although there is no legal requirement for mining companies in Australia to report to the public on their social performance, best practice companies have been doing so for some time. Since 2008, leading international mining industry body, the ICMM, has committed member companies to report publicly each year in line with the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative framework. Footnote 18

A key indicator is the participation of women and minority groups in the workforce, and at professional and management levels. In such a male-dominated industry Footnote 19 it is important that companies take an active approach not only to developing a gender-inclusive workforce but also in demonstrating this to stakeholders. Positive messages about the diversity of the workforce and supportive workplace practices will go far towards building a good reputation among local communities and are a firm foundation for positive community relations. This will also enhance the business success factors outlined above—being an employer of choice and retaining employees—and can therefore also enhance shareholder value.


Footnote 17
See 2014 speech by Sarah Hooper of the Chamber of Minerals of WA for more discussion, http://www.cmewa.com/UserDir/CMEResources/Gender%20Diversity%20in%20the%20WA%20Resources%20Sector%20-%20AOG%20201486.pdf, accessed 20 March 2014.

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Footnote 18
Detailed information about how to prepare a sustainability report using the Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines is available at https://www.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx.

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Footnote 19
Women make up 17% of the WA resources workforce, compared with 43% of women in the overall WA workforce, with WA reported as having a higher female resources workforce proportion than other parts of Australia (CME 2013:7).

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