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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
02/04/2009
Pay equity and increasing female participation in the workforce

CHAIR —I declare the public hearing open again, and I would like to welcome representatives from the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy to today’s hearing. Do you have anything to say about the capacity in which you appear before the committee?

Ms Sarder —I am here representing both the AusIMM and the Women in Mining Network of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Ms Frater —I work for BMA, which is a BHP Billiton company in Queensland. I am a principal geologist with them.

CHAIR —Welcome this afternoon. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have received your written submission, and I thank you very much for that. Do you wish to present any additional material or make a brief opening statement before the committee starts to question you?

Ms Sarder —Yes, no worries. We had a little chat yesterday—a meeting to talk about what we thought were the most important issues for us. I thought I would briefly highlight those key points, and then you can be guided by those or your own interests.

CHAIR —Thank you very much.

Ms Sarder —First, I want to make the point that our research was very much aimed both at pay equity and at the fact that it is not just about increasing participation but about increasing equitable participation—which I assume is implied in the statement, but I just thought I would make that point. I suppose the key issues or barriers to equitable participation for us were the lack of acceptance of flexible work practices and the tools to enable implementation of that in a credible way; the lack of systematic approaches to return-to-work arrangements after maternity and, again, the lack of tools to implement that; the gender pay gap in mining and, I suppose, in most industries and the lack of tracking of that data; the issues around informal networking and the barriers that they can pose to equitable participation; the lack of a clear understanding of just how much it impacts and of more approaches within companies to deal with that; from a policy point of view, child care not being available at the times when it is needed where it is needed and also being very costly; and, finally, the lack of consistency of the government policy and in corporate paid parental leave. Those were the main issues for us.

CHAIR —Can you give me a bit of a feel for the membership of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy?

Ms Sarder —Yes, certainly. We have approximately 9,000 members. We are a professional association for people working in the minerals sector. They are tertiary qualified. The majority of our members are mining engineers, metallurgists and geoscientists or geologists, and the majority of them work in Australia. We engage in professional development—conferences, technical meetings et cetera. We are associated with various kinds of regulation, such as reporting on the stock exchange, and we also undertake advocacy on behalf of professionals in the minerals sector.

Mr RAMSEY —What percentage of the professional workforce would your 9,000 members cover? Do you know?

Ms Sarder —I am sorry. I could get that data for you, but I am not sure exactly.

Mr RAMSEY —Fifty per cent? You do not know.

Ms Sarder —Sorry—what percentage of the professional mining workforce?

Mr RAMSEY —Yes.

Ms Sarder —I think that at last count it was approximately 50 per cent.

Mr RAMSEY —Of your potential membership?

Ms Sarder —Yes. Penetration last time a study was done was 50 per cent. I thought you meant of the whole profession.

Mr RAMSEY —No. Thank you.

CHAIR —Amongst the many services you provide to members, do you include support in negotiating their individual contracts? I assume the majority of your members are on individual contracts of employment.

Ms Frater —I believe most professionals would be on individual contracts. AusIMM members do not represent the workforce under the EAs.

Ms Sarder —We are not like a union for professionals. We provide tools, guidelines and assistance. For example, we run a remuneration employment survey that looks at all the different roles of professionals and how much they earn. That is broken down by gender and level of responsibility, and it gives quite detailed roles so that people have an idea of what they can expect to get. The Women in Mining Network runs a ‘negotiating your salary’ seminar and things like that.

CHAIR —If I were a geologist, would you have a website or information that I could reference to find out what would be a fair salary package?

Ms Sarder —You could cite the remuneration for that level as to whether or not that is fair.

CHAIR —From your point of view that is a genuine market rate survey?

Ms Sarder —I hope so.

Ms Frater —It is usually more credible. Other websites will give indications of a salary for geologists but they will not take into account factors such as isolation or the conditions at particular sites and other things. Our member survey covers that a lot better than others do, and it also gives a broader and more accurate salary band.

CHAIR —I have been surprised by the number of women who are employed as geologists in the mining industry. Perhaps I should not be, but I am. It seems like they are the people who are sent out to the far distant places in Australia and elsewhere in the world. I wonder how many of them manage their family and domestic arrangements, or do they not really manage them?

Ms Frater —Geoscience does attract more women than some of the other fields. Certainly for me it was an interest in the outdoors as well as the science rather than the hard maths and engineering involved in being a mining or chemical engineer, which is a whole other world. That is why we do have a large proportion of women geologists. Some of the exploration roles are particularly hard on women who want to stay in their career and also have a family, because there are rosters that make it very difficult for women to do both. That is why a large proportion of women professionals drop-off. These women might have accumulated 10 or 15 years experience but then their choice of work-life balance does not agree with their career path, and you do get them dropping off.

Ms Sarder —That being said, I find that quite big assumptions are made sometimes about what women are willing to do. We found this in our research as well, especially assumptions about women geologists, for example, going to developing countries and that, because there are no shopping centres there, they will not like it. I kid you not—it was that kind of response. And there are also assumptions about caring commitments. A few years ago, we did a series of interviews with women about returning to work after maternity leave. We heard how exploration geologists had taken their kids out bush with them and how others had alternated their field trips with their partner and had employed a nanny in the interim. So I think it is really important to move away from the one-size-fits-all stereotype of ‘she won’t want to go out there’, because having to deal with that can be very disabling for women who want to progress.

CHAIR —Those sorts of stereotypes are pervasive in the industry?

Ms Frater —Very much so. And it is not just the stereotype but also the infrastructure and companies’ willingness to provide services for women in the workforce. That has not yet caught up with what we would expect in this day and age. You can still go to mine sites where there are no facilities, particularly for women, and mining camps that still make it very difficult for people to live in. So there is still work to be done in the industry to fix those issues.

Ms Sarder —There was one survey response about the gender pay gap from a member who said, ‘They spend more money providing additional facilities for us, so maybe that is why we get paid less.’

CHAIR —For toilets and showers.

Ms Sarder —Yes. People really do internalise those stereotypes and assumptions.

—We heard from APESMA earlier today and they reported similar findings to yours about the wages gap, how it varies amongst professionals and that it gets bigger at what is described as the ‘greater responsibility levels’. That seems pretty consistent with your gap of three per cent at level 1, which I am assuming is ‘least responsible’—

Ms Frater —The graduate level.

CHAIR —through to level 5, which is 32 per cent. That is extraordinarily large. What responsibilities would normally be associated with a level 5?

Ms Frater —That is general manager level. That includes mine managers and above who have statutory and business obligations.

Ms Sarder —Yes, the senior executive. There is a strategic role as well for coordinating the business.

CHAIR —So even at the senior executive mine manger level there is a significant pay gap?

Ms Sarder —We are capturing data at level 5—and we have some women in Queensland doing a further breakdown of it—but it is unclear how much of this gap is due to the fact that level 5 women are working, for example, in consultancies and are they, therefore, being paid less. If that is the case, why are women choosing to be sole consultants et cetera? It is really important to approach this as not simply being about pay equality but about pay equity for a similar responsibility and whole-of-work opportunity.

CHAIR —Do you know the number of women who are working in the mining industry and roughly what percentage they are of that workforce?

Ms Sarder —They are nine per cent of our membership, which is 9,000. We do not have the updated data from the ABS yet, but I can make a note to email that to you.

CHAIR —We have the general ABS stuff, and I vaguely recollect that mining was relatively high for women or that it had seen an increase.

Ms Frater —There has been an increase. The QRC, the Queensland Resources Council, recently brought out some new numbers and there has certainly been a percentage increase, but we are still looking at somewhere between nine and 11 per cent of the industry who are professional women or women in non-traditional roles. Operators are still at a very low percentage rate—less than four or five per cent across the entire industry. The numbers for some states are better than others, but it is a very low number across the board.

CHAIR —You sound like you publish or promote solutions for overcoming some of these problems. Without depressing yourselves too much, can you tell me what success you have had with companies picking them up?

Ms Sarder —We have only just released our list of solutions, and we have not done surveys of the actual companies to see how much they have picked up. We do know that, following our gender capture and pay gap data being publicised, which included the discrepancies at levels and hours—so it could not be written off as ‘Less women in the industry; the young go’ or whatever—several major mining companies did commit to internal tracking and to addressing the gender pay gap. That was quite good. We have done this informally but now we are looking at publishing it on our website. People are increasingly coming to us to find out what the expectations are for things like maternity leave so that they can benchmark their company against that and use it as a basis for negotiations. The recording of a critical mass of work case studies is something that we would like to increasingly do.

CHAIR —Do you know whether any of your large companies are obliged to report to the EOWA and undertake pay equity audits?

Ms Frater —I think they are obliged but I know that some companies have asked for exemptions on reporting for certain periods as they go through change. But I do believe a lot of that data is there. The Queensland Resources Council shares some of that information through their newsletters. You see some of the larger companies being applauded for their data and their incentives for women in the industry.

Mr HAASE —Thank for being here today. I have a particular interest in mining so I am interested in your report. In the compilation of your submission, was there a degree of input from the companies’ perspectives?

Ms Sarder —Our mandate is to represent professionals, so all of our advocacy is done from that point of view. We offer our members the chance to speak as professionals based on their experience and technical expertise. They are not necessarily bound by any restrictions that they might have in speaking through their companies.

We consult with Queensland Resources Council, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Women in Mining steering group and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA on their policies, so there is ongoing dialogue within those. But these solutions were from the actual professionals. So what was done was a quantitative content analysis where, any time there was the same answer to any question 10 or more times, that was put down. Then we went through the data again and clustered common challenges or common solutions, and then that formed the body of the report.

Mr HAASE —Do we have a sense in your submission as to the statistical accuracy? What part of the 9,000 membership was represented by those that responded? If it was 50 per cent, that gives us some idea of where this data may sit on the reasonableness test.

Ms Sarder —In this one I think there were about 900 responses, so 10 per cent.

Mr HAASE —Ten per cent, which is five per cent. You see how importantly it reflects on our deliberation.

Ms Sarder —Definitely.

Mr HAASE —It is a conversation I had with previous witnesses, in fact. An assessment of about five per cent would be reasonable for us to assume?

Ms Sarder —Yes.

Mr HAASE —Because it is quite logical to assume that those who are most adversely impacted by conditions of employment will be the ones most keen to respond to such an information-seeking survey.

Ms Sarder —Yes. It was interesting going through the data. The people who responded had quite a strong range of motivations. Because the issue of gender equity in mining is such a contentious one, there were people who responded, especially to the gender pay gap questions, very much saying: ‘I’m very happy with what my company provides me. My company has leading practice. This is what we do.’ A lot of the solutions came from that. There were a lot of people keen to promote what their companies were doing because they were quite proud of or grateful for how their company was treating them. There were also people who were hostile to the idea, to what they perceived might be an affirmative action approach. We had quite a fair contingent of members with that motivation as well. I have not gone through and broken down or classified this, but I would not say it was skewed towards people with a particular feminist agenda or anything like that. I know that is not what you are asking, but that is the short answer.

Mr HAASE —That is quite okay. I am concerned that any decisions we make that introduce a mandatory survey or mandatory improvements in women’s conditions, wages or whatever is going to impact on the cost to the consumer of your industry’s services, and that impacts on all of us. If we are going to add the government contribution to amending this situation, then we have to increase taxes or not fund something else. So it is not a decision that we are looking at very lightly, and I am always interested in getting the point of view of industry as to how our decisions may impact. I cannot say anything in this situation off the record, but it is logical for there to perhaps be a final conclusion that, with a small percentage of women in the workforce, and therefore the majority of conditions in the industry being targeted towards male employees, there will always be a tiny percentage of women who are prepared to work in that particular environment.

Ms Sarder —When we consult with members, we very much have their business and the business liability concerns in mind, and I think for that reason the majority of things that we discussed in our submission were not what you would call heavy-handed, mandatory policy interventions. I do not personally think, based on my research and on talking to members, that that is what people are looking for.

I think one of the key issues that we found for women and for people with younger families generally was that you basically get to a point where there is a critical mass of women in responsibility intensive roles. The net hours that people are working have gone up, but the net hours that it takes to attend to your home responsibilities have not gone down. So you have people who now want to negotiate flexibility with their employer. There is no clear definition of what that means. There have been no real templates, toolkits or criteria developed for that. Employers are understandably anxious about flexibility creep and expectations getting out of hand. Meanwhile, the employees are frustrated they cannot negotiate their best practice solutions for the business in light of organisational effectiveness. What we really hope is that, through a combination of education of managers of what is possible and developing and promoting a more systematic approach, you will enable more individual choice, which I would hope, with information and communication technologies, you can achieve.

Mr HAASE —There would be some areas in which those changes would be far more easily and readily introduced, and at a lesser cost, therefore, than others.

Ms Frater —There are certainly some companies that are doing some fantastic things, and I think part of what we are trying to promote is the recognition of these work practices that are making them a company of choice. There are so many women out there who are building an enormous amount of experience in our industry, and as we go into a skills shortage, if we do not use every tool we have to keep them in the industry, we will be hurting ourselves. A lot of the work we are trying to do as WIMnet is to find the business case that helps the company understand that it costs $180,000 if you lose a person—to fly someone out to the site to have a look, to house them, to train them and to recruit them. So there are a lot of economic reasons to keep these people in your company, applying their experience gathered over 15 years in every state in Australia, and to keep them applying it on your resource. That is why WIMnet are trying to get more flexible work practices and to increase the awareness of existing standards that are out there in particular companies—so that a new company or a company setting up a new camp can say: ‘This is the best practice. Everyone would like to live here and everyone can work here.’ We are trying to find the business case so that the companies recognise that having a greater balance of diversity in a workforce can benefit them, not just that it is the right thing to do.

Mr HAASE —It is simply an observation of mine that sometimes to achieve the most incremental change, the camouflage needs to be greatest when you are presenting the case to those who will be responsible for making that change. You understand my meaning? If you want to get to 100, you start asking for 10, and you have a greater chance of getting there than if you ask for 50. I note, and it is of no particular relevance—

CHAIR —I thought you would ask for 150.

Mr HAASE —No, that is the other way. That is called ambit claim bargaining. On page 38 of your submission, for instance, you note the lack of childcare centres generally in remote towns. To change that availability would require substantial funding from the government—that is, the taxpayer. I do not have sufficient childcare centres across my electorate, full stop, and I know that the financial hurdles to be overcome to change that are substantial. The likelihood of changing that specifically for the mining industry is therefore remote indeed.

Ms Frater —I have lived in country towns in New South Wales. I have lived in mining towns such as Paraburdoo and Moranbah, in Queensland. The childcare issue is one that falls neatly in the gap between government and companies. There are companies that have been trying to disengage from being the owner and runner of the town in the last 10 or 15 years. But it is a key thing stopping people coming back to work.

Mr HAASE —It is a pivotal point. It is the hurdle.

Ms Frater —Yes. You have young women who come out of university, hit our mining industry, work for six to eight years, fall pregnant and then come to the realisation that there is simply no childcare position available in six or eight months time to allow them to go back to work. The waiting list can be 12 months to 18 months, and then only available on two days. The companies need to explore different possibilities, such as home care centres or being able to support their employees’ wives to modify their houses so that there can be home care centres. That takes a cost and a legislative requirement as well.

Mr HAASE —Family day care.

Ms Frater —Yes.

Mr HAASE —It is a real problem. I just worry that any mandatory requirements specified by the government may result in less female employment rather than more.

CHAIR —Except you also want to remove the disincentive. I think you were saying that, in an employer based childcare centre, the employer is responsible for fringe benefits.

Ms Sarder —That is a major issue. Most of the things we have advocated are not about imposing mandatory or uniform standards. For something like the fringe benefits tax, I do not see the sense in not having to pay it if you run a childcare centre but having to pay it if you pay for your employees’ child care. For most people, the main issue is having options. Also, if you build the childcare centre with a certain number of places, that really ties your hands and you are limited in the number of places and you are stuck with whatever you have built. Also, it is the companies that do not have diversity issues that are most likely to build them. So I have never understood why that is in place.

Mr HAASE —I am sympathetic to your statement there, but the removal of FBT on child care is part of a very long list seeking exemption. The long lunch is one that comes to mind. The restaurant and catering industry would dearly love the removal of FBT on corporate lunches.

Ms Sarder —But people cannot take their children to work, basically.

Ms Frater —People have gone right through this process to find out. It simply has not been economic for a small company to support their employees that they want to keep. In fact, they are losing those people because they do not have child care in the town or it has become so expensive that they may as well stay at home rather than pay it.

Mr HAASE —So AusIMM could mount a very substantial case to justify the removal of FBT? I would suggest that—

CHAIR —In remote and regional areas.

Mr HAASE —Or somewhere where the very existence of child care is a foundation to the existence of the company and its ability to employ people with children. It would be in your interests, I am sure, to have mining companies do this collectively. It is something that perhaps Mitch Hooke would want to pursue. Where is he from again?

Ms Sarder —The Minerals Council of Australia. They have been investigating it as well. It is something that they are interested in as an issue as well. With the rural areas, because it is so hard to keep people, there is of course a substantial cost in removing that fringe benefits tax but at the same time there would be value in terms of the engagement of people who continue to service the mine who are experienced. You are talking about both partners because they both have responsibilities for care. That is something that I imagine could be a significant contribution, especially given that the average contribution in terms of GDP of employees in the mining industry is often over $300,000 per annum.

Mr HAASE —Huge. Chair, I do not know. Is that something that we would seek an additional submission specifically on? Would it add to our recommendations?

CHAIR —We can certainly refer questions to the Taxation Office about costs of removing certain things.

Mr HAASE —You might have an interest in highlighting that on page 38.

CHAIR —I think we can pick it up from here.

Mr HAASE —Okay. We can, can we? All right. That is fine.

Ms Sarder —I can chase some additional data and see if we have anything—

Mr HAASE —I am sure the secretariat will receive gladly anything you care to send.

Mr RAMSEY —Thank you, Monica and Donna. You referred before to the business case and that you have to get the positive message out there rather than trying to beat people over the head with a stick. I presume you are very confident in being able to put up a good business case and that you can actually make the sums look pretty good—

Ms Frater —We do struggle with the numbers because the companies do not necessarily have that data available for us, and it is the company data and not individuals which would help us build a business case. We have examples of particular companies being able to work it out for a fly-in, fly-out situation or how much it costs when they lose an experienced person, but we actually struggle with the business case.

Mr RAMSEY —Do you have some shining light companies that you can hold up and say about them that these people have done everything that we could reasonably expect and consequently they have a more stable workforce and a more productive workforce? Are there those kinds of companies that you can hold up, or are we actually trying to hope for too much?

Ms Sarder —There are case studies that have been recognised.

Ms Frater —The QRC do a fabulous job at the moment. They are the only state body who are actually presenting an awards situation for companies. They have a best company of the year award. Companies like Santos, Cement Australia, Thiess—

Mr RAMSEY —I think Alcoa just got one, didn’t they?

ACTING CHAIR —Alcoa got one in WA.

Ms Frater —There are a few different variations of it. We need to increase—

Mr RAMSEY —So those companies are very confident—or not—that they are actually getting a benefit out of what they are doing?

Ms Frater —Yes. Take things like the mummy shift and things like being able to maximise the people in the townships. Once you have gone through the cost of housing these people in an isolated township, if you actually maximise your population, by training the women up into the less technical roles or into operator roles, you are getting huge benefits from the optimisation of the township. There is some of that information coming out. I do not think we celebrate them very well. I do not think we publicise these companies very well for making fabulous efforts.

Ms Sarder —I believe that the business case is perhaps something for which some policy assistance would be really helpful. With something like the mining industry, in the past, because it is cyclical, there have been a lot of initiatives and there has been recruiting of more women when they have needed more people. But then they have all been subsequently dropped when they did not need people so much. Actually capturing longitudinal data—about what value certain initiatives have had on retention and on profits at various sites et cetera—is like getting blood from a stone. It is just not out there. Adding to that is the fact that a lot of companies are still reluctant to release data about retention, about the gender pay gap and about what they are doing. It is difficult to quantify that, so the main issue now is that.

We have had all these different initiatives that companies said they would put in place. But when we did this survey for almost all of those companies these were incredibly recent and the companies had not done the follow-up audits yet. There is the lack of standards being systematically captured anywhere. Then there is the lack of benchmarking further on. In fact, you never get to make the business case properly. So I actually think that some sort of mandatory reporting for the large companies that have the resources to do it, where it would not be too intrusive or where they do it ordinarily as part of their internal HR analysis, would be incredibly valuable in finally taking this forward. I say that because we do struggle.

Ms Frater —I do not think a lot of companies would really have a good handle themselves on their gender pay gap. Their blanket statement would be ‘I’m sure it’s fine’ but I doubt they would actually all have the data. I am sure that any sort of movement whereby we could get that data from a company without that putting at risk their HR policies or creating issues for them would help us move forward. A lot of people will say, ‘We don’t want it, so let’s fix that,’ but if they do not actually have the data in front of them then they do not know what they have got to fix.

Mr RAMSEY —I guess the point is that, with any technological take-up or whatever, it is getting that first 10 per cent, when you are the idiots. There is the next 20 per cent, and once you get over that 30 per cent barrier then the people that hold out start to look like the idiots. It is about getting enough critical mass to sell the message. That is why I was looking around to see whether you have got these really good success stories with people willing to stand up and say, ‘Our company is doing so much more of a better job and it is more efficient because of’ A, B and C. But we are not really quite there.

Ms Frater —We are getting some companies getting recognition of good initiatives. We have certainly had Alcoa and some others who are on the list of employers of choice for women. That sort of thing helps. It is really something that you look at when you are going to your middle career and you are looking for flexibility or you are looking for care in regard to your family situation. It really does make a difference.

Ms Sarder —I suppose that benchmarking and auditing is something that does not happen until it happens. You cannot make a business case across industry.

CHAIR —We will go to Mr Symon.

Mr SYMON —Thank you, Chair. I would like to get back to the issue of child care. I note your submission has three recommendations regarding child care. Each of them comes back to a government expense. The first question I would like to ask is: why is it not a company expense, especially when we are dealing with companies, in some cases of enormous size, of a multinational nature which, at their head offices in cities such as Melbourne or Sydney, may well provide childcare centres. In the case of a company town, why shouldn’t we expect them to do the same?

Ms Sarder —I am sorry. What page are you looking at?

Mr SYMON —Pages 37 and 38. There are recommendations to government. There is implement tax deductibility of work related carer expenses, extend fringe benefits tax exemption to all employer-sponsored child care and ensure there is access to quality child care in rural and regional areas.

Ms Sarder —Yes. I would say that for most of those there is a government cost but there is also a significant cost to the employee or company. With tax deductibility, depending on what percentage you took, the person would still be incurring the cost but would be getting some of their earnings back depending on the regional cost of having in-home care or whatever it is that is outside the scope of what a lot of governments tend to provide, so they would be able to claim some of that back and not have that disincentive to work. That is still likely to be covered primarily by the employee. Regarding the fringe benefits tax exemption to employer-sponsored child care, again we want employers to investigate other childcare options and to pay for them themselves and not have to deal with this hefty tax. People who are responsible for developing this kind of strategy have dropped the issue because they feel it is not fair.

Ms Frater —It is prohibitive. The cost of FBT stops any benefit for them.

Ms Sarder —Yes. We want them to pay, to step in, and to have it recognised that they do need to provide that support for people to go to work. It is difficult to see how it is a fringe benefit when you cannot just leave your child unattended to go to work.

Mr SYMON —I agree with that. My point is that for the same companies that are very likely to be supplying that childcare service in a large city where they have a head office, when you transfer to their mining site, where they probably have an even larger workforce, that facility is not there in most cases. Are there any that do have their own childcare services?

Ms Sarder —I think that there have been. I know that there is one provided—is it by Rio Tinto in the Pilbara? There is one.

Ms Frater —I do not know. I think Newman might have child care. I am not sure. It is certainly a question we ask of our companies. The percentage of professional and non-professional women in the city centres is obviously enormously higher than it is in the regional centres. Therefore, you are looking at six or eight per cent of your workforce being women who might have children. But they should also be utilising the men who work there for their childcare requirements.

Cycles that we are currently seeing are exactly why the companies seem not to be investing into their childcare centres. They are trying to be mining companies not infrastructure companies. We certainly hear these mining companies suggest that there should be some sort of return into these rural communities for the royalties they are paying into state government treasuries—and we see that we have issues not only with child care but with dentists. There are waiting lists of eight months to see a dentist in some of these townships at the moment, and in many of them, if not in every single one I have ever lived in, it is suggested to a woman not to have a first child in these townships because the medical care simply is not up to scratch for a high-risk issue. There are many levels of care that are not available in those townships.

Ms Sarder —Additionally, there are situations where companies have sponsored family day care et cetera. Anecdotally, if you are looking at providing one option where you do not pay fringe benefits tax, which is a childcare centre, it is a lot easier to do that in a capital city—something like BHP in the QV building, where a number of employers have joined together to co-fund a childcare centre which a contractor provides. Rurally and regionally it is going to be a lot harder to get a contractor in. Also, you do not necessarily have the same percentage of women working in the mine. There are a number of barriers to that regionally.

Ms Frater —It is not just bricks and mortar. Obviously we have a lack of trained staff out there, so the ratio of very young trainees in the childcare area out there is very high by comparison.

Mr SYMON —I suppose the other problem with that would be the wage rates in the childcare industry. They would probably mean you would not be able to afford to rent a house in a mining town if you were there to do that job.

Ms Sarder —There certainly are flow-on issues in the townships, yes.

Mr SYMON —To completely change tack, I want to go back to page 13 of your submission, which relates to the survey and the issues that affect females particularly. I want to know how small the number of male respondents was that came up with that list of responses halfway down the page.

Ms Sarder —There were at least 15 people who raised the issues at the top. The ones in the middle were a small minority. The really extreme views were not representative, so maybe there were 10, but the dot points at the top, assumptions that people with children are less committed to their role, were very representative, so you had at least 15 people, and then those things were consistent again when you read through. Straight discrimination is uncommon, at least in the survey responses. I will defer to Donna—

Mr SYMON —This seemed to be more cultural discrimination in many ways.

Ms Frater —I have had 15 years in the mining industry and there is not a single sentence on that page that surprises me. If it has not actually been said out loud to me, it has been written down, written on the wall or simply displayed with behaviour. It is still a very harsh place to work.

Mr SYMON —Has that changed over recent years or is it the same as it always was?

Ms Frater —It is certainly improving. There is absolutely no doubt that company policy impacts on this sort of cultural issue. It impacts by having managers who actually walk the talk—who improve the recruitment numbers of women and improve the conditions in our day-to-day work, from change rooms to offices to township infrastructure and amenities. It is absolutely, positively improving. The companies are using many tools, but it is still a battle. You are talking about townships and workforces that are dominated by a monoculture. With 90 per cent men in my workplace, it is absolutely normal for me to be in a room of 20 people and still be the only female there. That has been my entire career and next week will be exactly the same as last week. We still have a cultural change to come, but there are some companies that are starting to train their supervisors. The supervisor level, I believe, really has the great impact because you can help your operators and your young engineers. If you keep them in the industry it will change.

Mr SYMON —I drew attention to that because I think out of all the submissions I have looked at so far none have actually come out and put that down on paper. I come from a construction industry background and I understand where you are coming from. It is still there and I congratulate you on putting it down on paper and bringing it to us in that form.

Ms Sarder —Those are watered down! We did not have straight quotes.

Ms Frater —One of the focuses of WIMnet to try to increase the networking in rural centres. This year we are targeting Kalgoorlie, Bendigo, Mount Isa, Moranbah and, hopefully, Newman. It is amazing the power of having a roomful of women when you never have that in your working life. It is simply a chance to discuss it—’This is what we are living in and I’m not the only one.’ It makes an enormous difference. But there are certainly many people in our industry, from the dragline operator to the general manager, who are battling this culture themselves. As a man in the industry you are battling to try and make it better for your daughters. Part of what WIMnet is trying to do is celebrate the successes of these companies that are trying to attack the culture that we are having issues with.

Mr SYMON —Thank you.

CHAIR —That was very useful. I wish you every bit of success, particularly around Kalgoorlie. We know what they are like around there!

0Mr Haase interjecting

CHAIR —He is one of the better ones. You could probably take him along. Do not be surprised if the committee comes back to you for more information. I congratulate you on your submission and the survey that you have done. If we have any requests for additional information—and there might have been something that Barry asked you to chase up—it would be much appreciated if could you liaise with the committee secretariat over that. On behalf of the committee I would like to thank you very much. It was terrific to have you here.

[2.27 pm]