She who shares her story of…

I saw the signs!

The Story

My story is one that needs to be shared to help others understand what they should do when they see the signs. You might get to the end of my story and think that it was bleeding obvious what was going to be the outcome, but…you have to go through it yourself to understand how yes, you can SEE the signs, but to ACT on those signs is a different matter.

I work in the mining industry and have a technical profession that is very dominated by men. I live in a remote mining town where my family are all close by. I have just bought my first home and I have managed to find myself a partner my mother thinks to be a good catch. I am pretty happy….

…except that I hate where I work!

I have always wanted to be a technical professional in the mining industry and I see myself progressing to a Shift Boss and maybe into an Operations Manager role in the future. That’s a long way yet, but I think that is possible. In our business, I am one of two people who do the same role on a swing roster. The other has different genitalia than me – he clearly has the right bits! I am given the more senior and challenging aspects to complete in our technical role, I am thrown the bigger and more complex projects, and I am given more to do than he does. Oh…and I am paid $30K less than him!

In addition to my current role, I have requested to have development and exposure to be able to work towards completing my mine manager’s ticket. Something you can’t get anywhere near operational management without in NSW. My manager has given me an outright “no” and that I also won’t see any other advancement because my cross shift is well ahead of me in being considered for that growth. I have raised my concerns with HR. They didn’t really have an answer – in fact, I don’t know they actually listened. I did, however, get offered to move to another position after I raised my concern on a less desirable roster, doing less desirable things, and having a less desirable pathway to operational management.

I should have known. I saw the signs! Let me take you back some time…

I got to the site for my interview early. I was very eager. I had the name of the guy I was being interviewed by, but I couldn’t find him on the directory of the gate to call. I just pushed the reception number and that took a bit to organise and by the time he called over the intercom I heard a rather cranky voice say, “What? Girls are too stupid to be able to read directions?” He then buzzed me in. When I got up to the office, he walked in the room and said something he found amusing about how he was troubled on whether he should shake my hand or kiss my check hello, “I mean, do girls shake hands?”  My interview was not much better from there. The poor young HR guy was trying to make things better as we went. I walked out of that interview never expecting to hear from them again. But…I did! I got the job offer. I was so excited because it was the role I had worked hard to achieve. My first day brought me back to reality on why I was appointed when I saw my manager towards the end of my first day on site and he said “well, you just helped me make my gender quota – I hope you can help me get my production quota too sweetheart.”

The Message

In Australia, the underrepresentation of women in industries considered to be ‘male-dominated’, continues to affect gender equality, industry performance and our nation’s economy. To achieve substantive gender equality and the resulting economic benefits, Australia needs to increase the representation of women and to strengthen the pipeline of female talent within all industries, including those that are currently male-dominated.

Quotas can be a demonstrably effective way to reach its diversity and equality goals, but not everybody believes quotas are the answer. Some believe that quotas can speed up the social change that we need in our industries and that mandated targets force organisations to look past their biases to identify those women to give them the same appointment, development and promotion opportunities that have been offered to their male counterparts.

While others believe that quotas artificially imposed from above can breed resentment among those who disagree with the premise and they believe that societal change on the issue of gender inequality should come from the bottom up; from parents and teachers rather than from politicians and HR functions. Arguably, they do little to change the biases and attitudes that led to gender inequality in the first place.

The Call to Action

Lead from the top with leaders supporting the clearly articulated vision for gender diversity across the organisation, with a specific focus on increasing the representation of women in non-traditional roles.

Implement policies to change workplace culture to be more inclusive. Change behaviours and attitudes about roles women can do by challenging assumptions and stereotypes about male-dominated roles and workplaces.

Ensure pay equity at all levels of the organisation and ensure this is regularly monitored through a transparent audit process. Set targets to ensure women are participating equally in on-the-job development including special projects and senior ‘acting’ opportunities.

If you are going to work towards achieving gender quotas, be committed to the intent behind them and talk through with your Manager any resentment that may stop you from being able to genuinely support these quotas. They are just numbers on a page if you don’t let everyone in your team bring their authentic self to work, or if you have conscious or unconscious biases creep in to how you lead your team.