Miners are a tough breed. Always have been. 12 hour days, hard, dirty, heavy work, and antisocial rosters are some of the more obvious characteristics of the work involved.
Combine this with the reality of spending weeks on-site with the only real entertainment coming in the form of whiskey and beer, and it might sound like the type of job suited to tough, individualistic, strong men who are willing to put in the effort for the big dollars, who equate the isolation with freedom and who care little for the trappings of modern civilization—or even for personal hygiene.
But is that really the case? Is mining as a career a reserve for men, with no room for women? Is simply being a member of the fairer sex (with all the inferred lack of, well, masculinity that the term implies) really such a handicap in a booming industry?
Well, no. Not entirely.
Sure, there’s still a significant gender imbalance, with industry commentators putting the number of female mine-workers at just 15%. This figure drops even further (all the way to 3%) when you look at the number of women working underground.
But there are a number of office-type jobs available within a mining environment that don’t carry the stigma of sweaty male-ness, and which women have long engaged in. These include administration, finance, cleaning and catering roles.
Then there are the jobs that require specific qualifications, which women are as likely to be able to attain (if not more so) as men. Examples of this type of role include Geologists, Medics, Nurses, Environmental Scientists, Occupational Health & Safety officers, and various types of engineer.
Tradespeople are also valuable mine employees, and there’s nothing stopping women from becoming qualified mechanics, carpenters, boilermakers or builders. Admittedly, these roles have traditionally been male-dominated professions, but there’s no reason they should be and it certainly isn’t exclusive.
There’s also the reality that pits are gender-neutral. Women are encouraged to apply for any job in the pit—and in some cases are becoming a preferred option. Dump truck drivers, road train drivers and shotfirers are examples of roles where a steady approach is a valuable trait, and that’s a trait where women, in general, trump men every time.
Finally, there are active attempts to make mines more women-friendly. The gender imbalance is an acknowledged issue within the industry, and mining companies are even now starting to remove potential roadblocks. In addition to being consciously open to women who apply, they’re adding more flexibility to rosters and in some cases are even investigating the possibility of offering part time roles.
That said, it isn’t a quick or easy fix. The gender imbalance is likely to remain for quite some time—and it might never be fully addressed. But the opportunities are definitely there, if you’re willing to look for them—and with hard work and dedication, the rewards can be great.
Whether you’re young or old, male or female, Mining Australia gives you all the information you need to get into the mining industry in Australia.