By Robyn Molloy

Global resources giant BHP has achieved more in its quest for gender equity since announcing its “aspirational goal” three years ago – of reaching 50 per cent women in the organisation by 2025 – then it did in the entire decade before the announcement.

But the company could still get “bolder” around some of the changes such as flexible working and inclusion, Newman Operations general manager Marie Bourgoin told a recent CEDA business luncheon.

Bourgoin, a member of the Global Inclusion and Diversity Council, said BHP’s four priorities included flexible work, mitigating potential bias, ensuring the brand was attractive to a broad range of people, and enabled supply chain partners to support its commitment.

“I think we need to imagine a world where men, women, just say ‘tomorrow, I just want to work from 10am to 2pm’. Obviously need to have qualifications and role categories, etc but you just enable it and it just becomes the way you work,” she said.

“You really value people not for how long they work, but for the quality of their decision making while they’re at work.

“And the second one for me that we need to be much bolder with is inclusion. And it all starts there. There is no point in trying to bring a beautiful soul into the organisation if we actually can’t harness the value they have to offer. This was seen as an obstacle and now it is actually seen as equality.

“Everyone has something to offer and how we leverage that after all, we teach our kids the national anthem ‘we are one we are many’ so we just need to live it.”

According to BHP’s annual report released today, in 2018-19 37.7 per cent of newly hired workers were female, compared with 10.4 per cent four years earlier. It’s overall representation of women was 24.5 per cent, an increase of 2.1 per cent compared with the previous year.

Bourgoin said flexible work options were the best way to reach gender balance, appealing to both men and women, with 46 per cent of BHP’s workers globally saying they now work flexibly. 

She admitted the having targets for appointing women were an issue that people grappled with but said ultimately it was not about the target but “about fairness and being equitable”.

“It’s about saying I want to look out for the best potential candidate but that best potential candidate may not be in the same pool that he used to be in the past because I’ll change the paradigm of what I’m looking for in a leader, or what I’m looking for in an employee.”

She said with an open mind to the full community and without bias, 50 per cent of candidates are likely be male and 50 per cent will likely be female.

A recent $153 million upgrade at BHP’s Mulla Mulla Village, which serves workers on its nearby $5.3 billion (US$3.6bn) South Flank iron ore construction project, about 120km north west of Newman, has factored in its aim of achieving gender balance.

BHP had recruited about 50 per cent of the 600 people needed for the South Flank operations team, of which 41 per cent were female and 22 per cent indigenous.

The expansion added 2000 more rooms to the original 500, along with 30 laundries and new recreational facilities such as virtual golf, squash and tennis courts, swimming pool, cross-fit gym and sports field. 

There is also a three-storey café with lift access to a rooftop bar/restaurant, music stage, a library with 3000 books, barbecue, gazebos and plenty of room for movie nights on the green using an inflatable screen. 

“BHP really do focus on the diversity,” said Linda Pringle, BHP South Flank site administrator and a regular user of the huge gym.

“Being a female on site, it’s not difficult at all, we’re really included in everything.”