It’s all about fighting the gender gap


International Women’s Day inspires us to celebrate the women in our lives and our community. At the same time we are shining a bright light in the dark corners of what remains to be done, so all women – including our daughters and their daughters – enjoy the same opportunities as their brothers and fathers.

I am inspired by the talented women who live in our beautiful part of the world. Looking around me I see sportswomen, nurses, miners, teachers, mothers, school and club organisers, dentists, principals, electricians, doctors, beauticians, musicians, mayors, retailers, accountants and many more vocations. This suggests women can do just about anything with their lives…or can they? The reality, however, is that we are not there yet.

From the perspective of the mining industry, which is where I work, we don’t have enough women aspiring to qualify as tradespeople or engineers. And, conversely, there are not enough men studying to be human resource professionals or communicators. I lament the perceived range of career choices by gender: this is a barrier to building the best team possible, with great minds and diverse skills.

Research has shown that a leading teams are diverse in gender, age and cultural background. Increasingly, we talk about diversity of thinking styles. At Northparkes Mines, about one in six employees is female, which doesn’t reflect the diversity of our community and suggests we are missing out. We want future generations of men and women to consider careers in what some might think of as male or female domains. School and home are ideal places to start these conversations and share stories, in order to spark dreams and aspirations.

This year, International Women’s Day is shining a light on pay parity. At current rates of change in Australia, it will take another three to four generations, perhaps by my great granddaughter’s generation, for women to achieve pay parity with men! That is too long and not what I want for either my daughter, or any of the young women in our community.

I was shocked last year to find that we had a gender pay gap at Northparkes. For years we had assumed that we had strong processes and great systems; we had operated with the belief that we didn’t even need to be checked. When we did check, using the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) tool, we found there were gaps in some areas. We acted to fix them and are now very conscious of the biases that led to gaps. This year at Northparkes we will go one step further toward gender equality at work. We are endeavouring to become recognised as an Employer of Choice by WGEA.

There is one more dark area where I would like to shine my own spotlight on International Women’s Day. I am haunted by the statistic that, if nothing changes, my daughter has a one in three chance of being the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This is not what I want for either my daughter or anyone’s daughter or children. At Northparkes, we are in the final stages of being accredited by White Ribbon. This accreditation recognises workplaces that are taking active steps to prevent and respond to violence against women. This, in turn, supports a community that prevents and responds to violence against women – and a better place for our sons and daughters.

A better place for our daughters is what I aspire to on International Women’s Day. I have been fortunate in my own life so far and recognise my opportunity to influence others. I am grabbing this opportunity with both hands for our daughters and our sons.


This feature by Northparkes Mines Managing Director Stefanie Loader, originally appeared in the Parkes Champion Post on 11 March, 2016.

Stef studied geology and entered the mining industry in 1994. She is currently Chair of the NSW Minerals Council. In 2013, Stef was listed as one of 100 Australian Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac.

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