I am very proud to lead Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore product group. It’s a fantastic business with world-class assets and products and, most importantly, more than 12,000 engaged and highly capable people. Our company has pioneered amazing things over more than half a century in the Pilbara. None of this would be possible without the ingenuity and teamwork of our people.
I believe that leadership on inclusion and diversity is a key to even greater success in the future.
I recognise the capability that a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture bring to our business. Inclusive workplaces are happier and more engaged. They are more innovative and productive. Put simply, these workplaces produce superior results.
However, I also know that our sector faces challenges when it comes to inclusion and diversity. I started in this industry in 1983. Whilst there has been some progress, women’s representation is still an issue, including in my own business, and I am determined to see Rio Tinto continue to address the imbalance.
And to me, and to us at Rio, this is about more than accessing a broader talent pool. It’s about doing what’s right, and running a business that reflects the communities we serve. Again, we, like many in this industry and others, have a long way to go, but we are determined to get there, as quickly as possible.
Technological innovations in mining offer varying career paths. Our world-first autonomous heavy haulage railway – AutoHaul – and autonomous drills and haul trucks, not only deliver significant safety and productivity benefits, but also offer more lifestyle choices. You don’t have to work in a remote location in order to be a “miner”.
Automation and technology will certainly open the door to a more diverse workforce. However, what will really drive change is within each of us – our attitudes and biases. This is where the real challenge lies.
For example, only around 16% of Australia’s STEM-qualified workforce is female. We need more young women studying STEM subjects, and we need more businesses to make the effort to nurture this talent.
Rio Tinto recognises this gap, and supports a range of education programs and initiatives that encourage female participation in STEM. Our ongoing partnership with the University of Western Australia is a good example of this. The Girls in Engineering program engages students from year 7 to 10 in STEM, encouraging them to consider engineering as a career path. Our female employees act as role models in the program.
However, research also indicates that women are leaving STEM careers in greater numbers. A lack of senior female leaders and slower career progression are amongst key factors cited. Of course, such concerns are not unique to the resources industry.
I am a firm believer in avoiding the “merit trap” in recruitment and promotion decision making. For too long, “merit” has been code for “like me”. Indeed, there are numerous studies confirming that we are drawn to those who think, look and act like us. As leaders we need to debunk this. We must critically challenge our own assumptions and the selection processes to ensure that objectivity is maximised and bias cannot creep in. If we fail to do this, we will continue to fall into the trap and everyone loses as a result.
At Rio, we’re actively working with our leaders to build and strengthen inclusive and diverse approaches when it comes to decisions on recruitment, talent and opportunities for growth. I also see the opportunity to bring the voice of industry to these important issues. I am proud to chair the Mineral Council of Australia’s Workforce and Innovation Committee. This committee aims to create an even more inclusive and diverse workforce. Its focus is at the intersection between technology, skills and diversity, recognising the key links to education and opportunities presented by more digitally enabled resources sector.
I know that, as a leader, what I say and do, and how I measure success, send a clear message to our people about what matters. This ability to influence and drive inclusion and diversity, including gender balanced leadership, is a great privilege. I am excited by the possibilities that will come with unlocking our potential and look forward to working with like-minded executives to achieve this common goal.