Globalization, COVID-19, and other factors have led to a demand for more workers in the resource sectors, and have underscored the need for the fair treatment of all.
Creating and nurturing a diverse and respectful workplace essentially comes down to one thing: making everyone feel welcome. Commonly referred to as Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and more recently Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), it is crucial in today’s workplace, from the boardroom to the office, from the shop floor to the warehouse.
Unlike bygone days when employers would look around the boardroom and comment on the need to have more women, minorities, or other underrepresented persons among their ranks for the sake of appearance and to deflect criticism—the dreaded ‘tokenism’—DE&I is a genuine means of empowering others, regardless of their ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, or education. Instead of seeing our differences as obstacles, DE&I recognizes them as strengths and platforms for learning from one another.
All about respect
In her recent book Everyone Included: Improve belonging, diversity and inclusion in your team, author Helen May pulls no punches outlining the importance of DE&I, and how it needs a re-evaluation in today’s unpredictable business culture.
Holding several senior corporate leadership roles over the years, May was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an adult and knows what it’s like to be perceived as ‘different’. Now she’s passionate about D&I to positively transform organizations and improve the lives of employees.
“A culture of belonging is going to be absolutely critical to business continuity,” she writes in Everyone Included. “The evolution of organizations will require the individual employee to take centre stage, within a space where psychological safety is high, everyone feels included and the unique talents of all are maximized. Belonging is an innate, human need as critical as our need for food, water and shelter. It has never been more important for us to find a sense of belonging in the world and a refuge in the middle of a chaotic environment.”
People, not boxes
According to May, the importance of Diversity and Inclusion programs continues to grow, particularly among younger workers who want to be recognized for their uniqueness, and refuse to be put into “convenient boxes.”
Many of the principles behind D&I and DE&I—respecting others, recognizing differences, and creating a positive and nurturing environment—have real benefits. A business with a healthier balance of men and women, a mix of ethnic backgrounds, and greater age diversity has been proven to outperform competitors and enjoy better decision-making. These benefits apply to all sectors, including resources, which has been working to challenge misconceptions for years.
Today, practically every type of business is in need of workers, and mining, oil and gas, and related industries are no exception. A 2021 analysis conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) predicts that by 2040, less than 20 years away, Australia’s mining sector will need 29 percent more metallurgists and 21 percent more mining and Geotech engineers than it had in 2020.
First, address the workplace
Far from being an Australia-only problem, the lack of resource sector workers is a worldwide issue.
Just last November, The Mining Association of Canada (MAC)—which has served as the voice of Canada’s mining industry since 1935—posted comments on a draft MAC received of proposed equity, diversity and inclusion protocols. The draft came just six months after mining giant Rio Tinto released its 85-page Report into Workplace Culture at Rio Tinto. (www.riotinto.com/-/media/Content/Documents/Sustainability/People/RT-Everyday-respect-report.pdf?rev=db65caa21e6843508b890790fcc8abc4). In all the years that this writer has covered business and the resource sector, this is the first report that comes with a Content Warning about stories of bullying, sexual harassment, and racism.
Instead of sidelining these issues, the report, to Rio Tinto’s credit, takes them head-on. Engaging Elizabeth Broderick & Co. (EB & Co.) to conduct an external expert review (the Project) of the company’s mining culture as part of its existing Everyday Respect Taskforce (ERT), the purpose of the Project “was to identify workplace challenges such as bullying, sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination; and to make recommendations which could strengthen Rio Tinto’s workplace culture and ensure sustained cultural change.”
In total, 10,303 people were voluntarily surveyed worldwide in 10 different languages, with dozens of written submissions, and group and confidential listening sessions. The report found that mining, a male-dominated sector, is rife with systemic bullying, sexism, racism, and harassment on worksites. Locations in Australia (52 percent) and South Africa (56 percent) “were the most likely to experience this damaging pattern of behaviour.”
Among women, especially younger females 34 and under, reports of sexual harassment were common, with 34.4 percent of women under 25, and 38.7 percent of women 25 to 34, experiencing sexual harassment in the last five years.
Higher rates of sexual harassment were reported among female mine workers in Australia, especially on Fly-in-Fly-Out (FIFO), Drive-in-Drive-Out (DIDO), and residential worksites. Additionally, Rio Tinto workers who identify as LGBTIQ+ also reported “significantly elevated rates” of sexual harassment, racism, and bullying compared to employees who do not identify as LGBTIQ+.
Racism also emerged as a significant issue across many mine sites. Although some employees said that they hadn’t experienced or seen racism in the workplace, others spoke of frequent “negative and persistent experiences,” and how these incidents affected their work performance and self-esteem. Some said that racism and sexism were “normalized” in some parts of the company, “which made it particularly hard for women from Asian, Black North American, African, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Indigenous and First Nations backgrounds to progress.”
As the act of making all persons feel welcome is the foundation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, issues of racism, sexism, bullying, and harassment must also be addressed to foster an open workplace culture. Far from being just an “image problem,” potential workers who associate with marginalized groups are far less likely to apply for jobs where they suspect they will be ridiculed based on their gender or race.
This is especially important today, as the Canadian Mining Labour Market 10-Year Outlook 2020 (/mihr.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/MIHR_National_Report_web2.pdf) from the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) forecasts the need to hire about 79,680 workers by 2030, most of them in production.
From mine sites to onshore and offshore oil and gas, DE&I is essential to future success. Challenging conscious and unconscious biases and outdated norms of the past will help recruit new workers, create environments where everyone feels appreciated, and mobilize the energy and strength that comes from many voices in harmony.