Women Respond to Genuine Commitment in the Resources Workforce

The traditionally male dominated resources sector is a tough nut to crack in terms of gender diversity, according to those at the forefront of changing the industry. It takes a lot more than just a policy of employing more women or token gestures to get lasting results.

"At the root of gender diversity is inclusion - and a genuine desire to provide a safe and caring workplace" says Milano Pellegrini, who heads up Human Resources at Caltex Australia's Refining & Supply business.

"By providing this type of safe and caring environment, employees have further incentive to stay with the organization and contribute to its long term success."

Mr. Pellegrini will give industry peers the inside track on how to turn talk into results in the workforce at the upcoming HR Leaders Resources Summit. He will draw on the successful experience of Caltex Australia, which is one of the few resources sector organizations to have a female chair in Elizabeth Bryan.

Caltex Australia, which employs about 3,500 people around Australia, is making progress in its efforts to improve workforce diversity. About 34 percent of Caltex's employees are women, up from 30 percent the previous year. It sets regular goals to bridge the gender gap. Last year its aim was to increase the number of women managers in its "pipeline critical successor talent pool" from 16 percent to a minimum of 20 percent - they achieved 25 percent. The company also achieved an ongoing reduction in voluntary turnover rates for women - as opposed to a decade ago when women were twice as likely to leave Caltex than their male counterparts.

Its success is the result of a comprehensive package of measures to achieve change. Caltex has provided external mentoring to most of its female "middle managers" to support career development. The company also holds regular networking events. All senior staff has undertaken training to recognize unconscious bias.

Caltex has also introduced more family friendly work practices. The company's paid parental leave scheme is amongst the most generous in Australia, and last year Caltex introduced bonuses for parents returning to work after having children. Under its "BabyCare" scheme, Caltex is paying primary care-giver employees a quarterly bonus amounting to 3 percent of their base salary until the child's second birthday, as well as offering up to $1,500 of emergency child care. It will also introduce nursing mothers' facilities at major Caltex workplaces this year.

Mr Pellegrini said Caltex had recognized a need for a multi-faceted approach, providing employees with the support and flexibility that they needed as well as career advancement opportunities.

"The results to date are very encouraging - managers have shifted their attitudes and employees feel more engaged." he said.
But Caltex's efforts to bring about change weren't without complications.

"People see through token or non-genuine attempts to satisfy perceptions in this space.

Our endeavors have not gone without questions from our employees - both men and women - but our diversity strategy is gaining momentum and we are starting to derive the benefits."

The need to recruit more women in the sector has been flagged by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Federal government's recent Women in Leadership Census. Additional analysis by PWC last year found that, of the top 50 ASX-listed mining and minerals companies:

  • only 6.3 percent of key management positions were occupied by women
  • only 32 directors were female
  • nearly half of those companies (48 percent) did not have a woman on the board.

The lack of diversity isn't just seen in management. Women represented only 15.5 percent of the mining industry's total workforce compared with 45.5 percent across all industries according to Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency's 2012 report.


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