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Management holds key to end substandard work environment says study

BHP mine worker
Mine worker

Female mine workers cannot resolve poor employment conditions on their own, researchers found.

Resources managers and male subordinates stand a far better chance of ending sexual harassment than their female counterparts. This is one conclusion Curtin University’s “Towards a healthy and safe workforce in the mining industry” study reached.

Researchers spoke with representatives from BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group and 422 other employers. They discovered the best way for mine sites to attract more women is through hiring more female leaders.

“Companies with above average representation of women in management are more likely to prioritise employee mental health and wellbeing, physical health and safety, and workplace culture – and sexual harassment – relative to companies with below average representation of women in management,” the report said.

“More women in management roles can assist with participation in and resistance towards sexual harassment primary prevention initiatives.”

The report also revealed proponents with gender equity targets are far more likely to foster positive employment environments.

“Companies’ commitment to sustainable development goal five on gender equality appears to be an important predictor of its priorities in the areas of mental health and wellbeing, physical health and safety, and workplace culture – and sexual harassment,” it said.

“Companies with defined diversity and equality targets record a composite index score of 42.6 compared to companies without such targets with an average score of 22.1 [representing a 92.8 per cent increase].”

The study slammed the mineral sector for being one of the “worst five industries” for sexual harassment. Forty per cent of workers and 74 per cent of female respondents complained about experiencing sexual harassment during the past five years. This allegedly caused substandard workplace cultures, gender inequality and power disparity.

Meanwhile, the Australian Resources and Energy Employer Association (AREEA) recently launched a national campaign to fight workplace sexual harassment.

The “That’s why I speak up” campaign promotes behavioural awareness and change messaging via a new marketing collateral suite. Artwork quotes male mine workers who spoke up against inappropriate behaviour, sexual comments, innuendo, harassment and assault because they were “raised better”. They denounce sexual harassment as “creepy”, “not funny” and “not on”.

“All of us … have an important role in ensuring the Australian resources and energy sector is a safe, respectful and inclusive industry in which to work,” AREEA operations director Tara Diamond said in a public statement.

Click here to download the full report.

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