BHP and Rio Tinto have been getting louder on the topic of gender diversity in the past 18 months.
BHP is aiming to achieve gender balance by 2025 and at November’s AGM, CEO Andrew Mackenzie reported that female participation was at over 20%, up 2.9% since the target was announced this time last year, and higher than the industry average.
“We have made more progress towards gender balance in the last financial year than we have in the past decade,” he said.
“I think it sends a strong message to all companies that gender balance is achievable, it is beneficial and it is an absolute imperative for workplaces in the 21st century.”
Of the company’s 10-member board, three are women.
Meanwhile, Rio is also soon to have 30% female directors with the recent appointment of Moya Greene and 30% of the company’s executive committee is now female.
“This was an important first step and there is no room for complacency in this area,” Rio CEO J-S Jacques said last year.
“The change starts at the top and I expect all leaders across the business to do the same.”
But one could argue that BHP and Rio missed a crucial opportunity to make a real statement last year when both opted to appoint male chairs.
Fortescue Metals Group made a big statement in late 2016 when it appointed Penny Bingham-Hall and Jenn Morris to its board, making it the first-ever ASX top 20 company across any sector to have five female board members.
Late last year, FMG promoted its CFO Elizabeth Gaines to CEO and mine manager Julie Shuttleworth to deputy CEO.
Gaines and Shuttleworth join Amanda Lacaze, CEO of Lynas Corporation, as the only female mining CEOs in the ASX 200.
OZ Minerals gets a special mention for having a female chair, Rebecca McGrath, and the company also has three out of seven female directors.
South32 is also tracking well, with three out of nine, while it also appointed Vanessa Torres as chief technology officer last month, which means three out of eight members of its lead team are women.
At gold miners Newcrest Mining and St Barbara, each company’s board is a quarter female (Newcrest, two of eight, St Barbara, one of four).
St Barbara is also the only ASX miner to receive the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s ‘Employer of Choice for Gender Equality’ citation, which it recently received for the fourth consecutive year.
St Barbara has set targets for the representation of women across the organisation, and provides industry best practice parental leave and return to work provisions, and special paid leave for domestic violence victims.
“Gender equality is a journey and, whilst I am delighted with St Barbara’s progress in gender equality in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, we are actively pursuing further improvement,” CEO Bob Vassie said.
Within the ASX 200, other standouts include Alumina, Whitehaven Coal and Iluka Resources, which each have two female directors out of seven total, while Energy Resources of Australia has two out of six.
There are several companies that were without a female director until recently.
Independence Group appointed Auramet Trading’s Debra Bakker to the board in late 2016, marking the return of female representation to the board since the retirement of Kelly Ross in late 2014.
In June 2017, Resolute Mining appointed lawyer Yasmin Broughton to its board, while it also appointed Lee-Anne de Bruin as CFO early last year.
As of the start of this financial year, Mineral Resources and Evolution Mining were the only ASX 200 miners not to have female board representation.
Evolution invited former KPMG partner Andrea Hall to join its board in September, while MinRes followed later that month with the appointment of Xi Xi.
However, the Chinese businesswoman was already on the board of rival lithium producer Galaxy Resources, forcing her resignation and leaving Galaxy without female board representation.
The company quickly rectified that by appointing Argentinean mining lawyer Florencia Heredia to its board in December.
While all of the ASX 200 miners now have female board representation, how does it look a tier down?
PwC Australia’s Aussie Mine report, released late last year, looked at the 50 largest ASX miners valued below $5 billion and found the proportion of female board members had decreased with 11% of representation in 2017, down from 15% in 2016.
“On a more encouraging note, of available board appointments, 46% of new appointments since 2016 have been female, indicating the message has been heard, although it’s still not one for one,” the report said.
“The MT50 lags a long way behind the Australia’s global top 40 miners, which have 32% female board representation.
“Given the limited number of board appointments in most years, it appears achieving gender equality in the boardroom of the MT50 is a long way off.”
There are still a number of companies valued at around the $1 billion mark that don’t have female board representation.
Near-term lithium producer Pilbara Minerals is the largest listed mining company not to have at least one woman on its board out of five members currently.
Clean TeQ Holdings recently appointed former Northparkes mine MD Stefanie Loader to its board, so the next two largest companies without female directors are also lithium companies, Kidman Resources and Altura Mining.
Near-term producer Dacian Gold is the largest gold company without a female director, with fellow developers Gascoyne Resources and Gold Road Resources each having at least one.
Other companies of reasonable scale not to have female board representation are (in order of market value as of Tuesday): New Century Resources, Global Geoscience, Metals X, Mount Gibson Iron, AVZ Minerals, Tribune Resources, Aurelia Minerals, Paladin Energy, Terramin Australia, Pantoro, Ramelius Resources, Magnis Resources, Berkeley Energia, Mineral Deposits, West African Resources, Cardinal Resources, Avanco Resources, Danakali, Silver Lake Resources, Brockman Mining, Medusa Mining and Rand Mining.
In its recently released Executive Remuneration 2018 report, AltoPartners took a look at the gender mix among global resources companies (including oil & gas), and found that women comprised 8% of boards and 10% of executive roles.
The most underrepresented functions for women are chairman and senior executives such as CEO and chief operating officer, where they were represented less than 3% of roles.
There are few female chairs and CEOs to be found among the hundreds of smaller players.
Michelle Li is chair of Grange Resources, while fellow Chinese businesswoman Yan Jia is deputy chair.
Bronwyn Barnes is executive chair of Indiana Resources, and non-executive chair of Auris Minerals (as well as a director of MOD Resources and soon-to-be director of Pegasus Metals).
Notably, two thirds of the Auris board is female, with geologist Dr Susan Vearncombe joining Barnes as a non-executive director.
Another junior punching above its weight is Vimy Resources, which boasts former MP Cheryl Edwards as chair and Minerals Council of Australia chair Dr Vanessa Guthrie as a director.
Geologist Lynda Burnett is MD of Sipa Resources, while her and fellow director Karen Field comprise 50% of the company’s board.
Rebecca Holland-Kennedy is MD of PepinNini Lithium, while Sarah Clifton-Brown is the company’s finance director.
Former CGA Mining CFO Justine Magee is now CEO of dual-listed RTG Mining.
Ines Scotland chairs Metal Bank, Alice Wong chairs Globe Metals & Mining, and this week Paige McNeil was appointed as chairwoman of Frontier Resources.
Newly listed Accelerate Resources is fronted by Yaxi Zhan, while ASX hopeful Trigg Mining is led by Keren Paterson.
Australian Women in Resources Alliance spokesperson Tara Diamond said leadership was the biggest area the sector was lagging on.
“The resources and energy industry has a great deal of progress to make in this area, given women comprise just 2.5% of CEOs currently,” she said.
“AWRA works with and supports employers and the wider industry on a number of a strategies for increasing the number of women in leadership positions.”
AWRA is aiming to increase female participation in the resources sector from 14% in 2017 to 25% by 2020.