Women at the helm on the rise

Women at the helm on the rise

Women are doing better at achieving senior management positions in Queensland’s energy and resources sectors than in other parts of the country.

Michael Roche, chief of the Queensland Resources Council, says women represented 12 per cent of executive positions in the state’s industry in the past financial year, up from 9 per cent in 2005-06.

He says this compares favourably with the average for Australia’s top 200 companies where women make up 8 per cent of the people in key management roles, according to analysis by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace agency.

In 14 per cent of the Queensland resources companies surveyed, women hold more than a third of executive management places, he points out.

The Resources Council introduced a Women in Resources Action Plan in 2006 to help member companies attract and retain female staff. It covers employment and promotion practices that encourage women to enter the industry and stay in it, including the provision of flexible working arrangements.

As a result, claims Roche, female participation in the industry has risen from about 8 per cent when the program began to 15 per cent today.

However, although women now make up 55 per cent of university graduates and almost half the national workforce, he adds, they continue to be under-represented in the country’s key corporate decision-making roles.

Despite the evidence that they are leading in employing women, companies in Queensland should not become complacent about the situation, says Roche.

“In the face of the skills shortage, we need to encourage more women to consider this sector as a career option,” he says.

For companies, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the advantages to businesses of better gender diversity.

Filling the positions vacant in the energy and resources industries is vital to the future prosperity of the state as a whole and in particular the Bowen Basin and Mackay regions.

The council’s 2009-10 study of its members’ employment patterns shows that women still only make up 11 per cent of their workers in engineering, trades and geology positions. These are the areas where the skills shortage is really biting, Roche says.

“We particularly have a long way to go in the trades where women make up only 1 per cent of all QRC member tradespeople,” he says.

As part of its promotion of work in the resources sector, the QRC and Central Queensland University are offering two scholarships to attract students to engineering and science. The scholarships, to be taken up in 2011, will contribute $10,000 a year to the students for the duration of their full-time degree studies. They are valued at $40,000 each.

The program currently supports 23 students in Queensland and recipients are also offered invitations to industry conferences, seminars and networking events as well as help to find holiday work opportunities in the resources sector. Students are spread between the University of Queensland, the University of Technology, James Cook University and Central Queensland.

Roche says the students find the networking and work experience they gain under the scheme highly valuable. QRC’s member companies offer another 300 university scholarships and are contributing financial support to Queensland universities.

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