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BHP’s four steps to diversity and inclusion

By CCIWA Editor

Gender diversity and inclusive workforces have not been a priority for the mining industry despite statistics showing diverse workforces are better for business overall.

In fact, BHP’s General Manager – Newman Operations Marie Bourgoin said it’s not that long ago that the thought of a resource company taking a leadership position on gender diversity would have been inconceivable.

But the global resources giant, which since 2016 has been striving to achieve gender balance across the company by 2025, is quickly discovering that the facts back up the research.

“We’re looking at our most inclusive and diverse operations and we find they outperform other operations on a broad range of measures including lower injury rates, better adherence to work plans and improved ability to meet production targets,” Bourgoin told a recent CEDA business lunch in Perth

As a leader Bourgoin said it’s her responsibility to create an “environment to cultivate behaviours like openness, constructive thoughts and enabling others so everyone has the confidence to speak up”.

Diversity is about inclusiveness

She says diversity doesn’t stop with gender and the company has been examining its attention to inclusiveness as well.

“Like many other companies, we define diversity broadly. But it’s really only just half the equation. Inclusion is even more important,” Bourgoin said.

“It is important to foster the diversity of thoughts. It means creating an environment where everyone is encouraged and feels safe to contribute to their full potential, regardless of their gender, regardless of their ethnicity, where they were born, their skin colours, which God they decide to pray to or who they choose to love.

“Because it’s easier to work with people who look and think the same, we need to rise to the inclusion challenge and mitigate unconscious bias wherever possible.

“Diversity and Inclusion is ultimately about people and culture. And people with different thinking styles, different personalities, backgrounds and gender can only thrive in an environment where the difference is truly valued and included in the decision making.”

To achieve gender diversity by 2025, BHP has four priorities including:

  • embedding flexible work
  • taking steps to mitigate potential bias
  • ensuring its brand is attractive to a broad range of people, and
  • enabling supply chain partners to support its commitment.

1. Flexible work

Bourgoin says offering flexible work was the biggest driving of achieving gender balance and it could be offered to staff in different ways, while attracted both men and women to the BHP workforce.

She said it was not just about hours, with the staff at the Perth office able to purchase annual leave, work part-time from home or outside the traditional 9am to 5pm hours and access the onsite creche.

For onsite workers it means flexible rosters and job share arrangements.

“Forty-six per cent of all people around the world, both operational and office based, say they now work flexibly and it is great to see that our internal reporting reveals that those on flexible work arrangement are happier at work and more engaged, than the overall group average,” Bourgoin said.

2. Unconscious bias

For an industry steeped in generations of male dominance, Bourgoin said escaping unconscious bias was difficult, however BHP was looking at all the visible and not so visible barriers that limit the diversity of the workforce.

This includes leveraging technology, such as exoskeleton suits, so manual tasks can be performed by anyone, and when recruiting so unconscious bias is addressed early in the process with balanced shortlists and interview panels a must.
“We have also widened our views on what it takes to be a successful candidate. And we’re challenging the tradition for a prerequisite required for many roles on the basis anyone in the community has equal value to offer to BHP,” she said.

“I particularly love our apprenticeship program in WA which is really successful at doing this. We had 37 apprentices join this year and half of these young people are female and 30 per cent are indigenous.

“And I’m proud to say some of female trainees, are our best performers, and one of our female trainees actually was the first BHP trainee to win the Central Regional Tafe trainee of the year award.

“It was a fantastic achievement for someone who prior to the traineeship had never really stepped foot on a mine let alone imagined working on a site or operating machinery.

3. Brand appeal

To appeal to a diverse range of people, Bourgoin said BHP had to “recast the face of our mining operations” from a being a “white male in a high visibility outfit, a hard hat and a dirty face”.

She said a social media campaign had helped change perceptions of what it was like to work in the industry, with the result being “a huge increase in the number of talented females proactively approaching BHP as a workplace of choice”.

4. Supply chain involvement

Bourgoin said BHP had worked with partners and suppliers as another step to embracing a more diverse workforce.

“One way we have done this is by introducing KPIs for major labour hire companies, and the KPIs stipulate more than 40 per cent of suitable candidates must be female and in WA alone, we’ve seen a 60 per cent increase in female representation across our labour hire companies,” she said.

“We are also working with our suppliers in the design of machinery to increase the range of people who can work on our site.

“These come in many forms, such as the seats that we have in vehicles to cater for a more diverse range of operators and recently we began a trial with a supplier to create personal protective equipment specifically designed for women, particularly for pregnant women.

“This may seem like a simple step, and it is, but it’s one that’s often been overlooked for the sake of making do. Uniforms is such a small issue but it creates a standard and a culture making everyone feel comfortable, valued, and a part of the team.”

According to BHP’s 2018-19 annual report, 37.7 per cent of newly hired workers were female – up from just 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.

Gender diversity and inclusive workforces have not been a priority for the mining industry despite statistics showing diverse workforces are better for business overall.

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