DIVERSITY by design Thiess’ Women in Mining Strategic Plan is proving a winning formula for the contractor as it eyes an ambitious goal of 20 per cent female participation by 2020. In this feature, we explore the strategies that helped Thiess take out the 2014 Australian Women in Resources Alliance Award. IF AN EXAMPLE was ever needed of the value of a strategic business approach to increase gender diversity in a male dominated industry, look no further than construction, mining and service provider Thiess. In 2011, the company’s 4000-strong Australian Business Mining Unit comprised MARK VINING just 4.7 per cent women. With the demand for project construction and engineering services ramping up, Thiess management realised that to remain competitive in the long term, it needed to improve its workforce mix. “I don’t think Thiess was any different to most mining organisations in the industry back then. We had a very maledominated workforce, not by design but just by history,” says general manager people and capability Mark Vining. “We had been talking about diversity for a while and there was certainly a point when the market was becoming more buoyant and labour was becoming scarcer. We recognised there was a significant pool of very capable women coming out of university and in professional roles that we needed to tap into.” In the absence of a formal strategy to attract more women to the organisation, Thiess began by setting a goal to achieve 17 per cent female participation by 2015 and 20 per cent by 2020. Realising that achieving this ambitious target required strong focus and dedication, the company hired a full-time diversity adviser to drive the strategy. “The underlying principle should be that you create a culture where people see diversity as part of how you do normal business. We wanted to have a real focus on this, to give it energy and invigoration,” Vining says. “Bringing our diversity adviser on board has made an extraordinary difference. When you have somebody who is passionate and can bring solutions to the table rather than problems, you quickly make great strides forward.” Thiess’ leaders agreed the company should be one where women felt included; where attraction, engagement and retention initiatives were targeted; career pathways were visible; and formal policies reflected equal opportunity. Following thorough organisational analysis and consultation with the workforce, the business’ first Women in Mining Strategic Plan 2013-2015 was launched which incorporated both immediate and long term initiatives to accelerate women into non-traditional and senior management roles. The strategy is reviewed every two years to keep it aligned with the businesses’ direction, and annual ‘action plans’ are
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developed to drive yearly goals. “We spent six months holding focus groups at every one of our project sites to identify areas that women found were barriers towards participation and career development,” Vining says. “A lot of honest feedback was used to identify a range of quick wins and more strategic long-term actions. Some of the solutions were very practical and so easy to implement, but had been overlooked.” Vining gives examples of increasing female representation on occupational health and safety committees and mine rescue teams while also ensuring employees had access to female medical practitioners and additional bathroom facilities where they were lacking onsite. “These are things that we could implement almost instantly and which make a huge difference to the respect people feel in the workplace,” he says. Thiess also increased opportunities for Indigenous women in regional areas through onsite training and employment programs, and undertook a remuneration review to identify gender pay gaps.
We spent six months holding focus groups at every one of our project sites to identify areas that women found were barriers towards participation and career development. MARK VINING
Thiess’ Australian mining unit is aiming for 20 per cent female participation by 2020