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May 2016 - WIMnet's Mentoring

What is WIMnet's Mentoring Programme?

On Friday 6 May 2016, I with Chris Sabin (from the Sydney Mining Club) attended what I thought was a Wimnet launch at Ernst  & Young's offices in Sydney. Our attendance came about from my sitting next to Fiona Robertson (who I knew as the former CFO of Delta Gold just a few years' ago [20?]) at a Sydney Mining Club lunch the day before, and Chris said to me (with Fiona there), "I assume you are going to the launch tomorrow ?".

On Friday 6 May 2016, I with Chris Sabin (from the Sydney Mining Club) attended what I thought was a Wimnet launch at Ernst & Young's offices in Sydney. Our attendance came about from my sitting next to Fiona Robertson (who I knew as the former CFO of Delta Gold just a few years' ago [20?]) at a Sydney Mining Club lunch the day before, and Chris said to me (with Fiona there), "I assume you are going to the launch tomorrow ?".

Fiona sent me an info presentation in which at a quick glance, the launch appeared to be broadly described as a women in mining organisation that involved mentors and mentees, and seemed to be mostly supported by the mining industry with gold, silver and bronze sponsors.

I thought I could perhaps dovetail it into my next Paydirt column of a wrap up of the conference and market mood (which I often write about this time of year), and with Kerry Stevenson's Symposium Conference having ceased at Broken Hill (the Resources and Energy Symposium that became the Resources Investment Symposium [ie RES or RIS] usually held in May - it lasted for 5 consecutive years from 2011).

Kerry's RES Symposium also supported the industry with the profits (after conference costs) going to fund bursaries for students studying for resource qualifications : mining, metallurgy and geology, with monies from an art auction (when held) and wintry camel races also going to the bursary fund. Kerry is still holding her renowned annual Precious Metals Investment Symposium conference, in 2016 on 10 - 11 October at the Sheraton in Sydney. However, there is another mining conference in May this year, with Nicholas Read of Read Corporate's annual RRS (Resource Rising Stars) conference on the Gold Coast switching from October to May (24 to 25).

Myself and Chris coincidentally both caught the same bus to the city, and were slightly late to the Launch and saw a gathering of mostly women of various ages as shown in the Figure. Chris said to me "Do you think they are all PhD students or students at various NSW colleges?". I didn't know. The gold sponsors gave addresses as in a senior manager from Orica, followed by a spokesman from Coal & Allied.

The Coal & Allied speaker talked about his company, the RIO connection, how many people they have (3000?) , how many tonnes they produce, the equipment of draglines and trucks, and the importance of safety, stressing that he hoped his 4 mentees took away the importance of safety in the coming programme.

Chris said to me "They have to be students, metallurgy, geology, mining, but they are too far away for me to read the name tags". I concurred. And when two or three of the mentees received scholarships, that settled it - they had to be students or something.

How wrong we both were.

We asked some of the attendees what is involved and later Fiona Robertson (WIMnet NSW's Mentoring sub-committee Chair) who introduced us to Deirdra Tindale (WIMnet NSW's Chair, who is also Manager Corporate Affairs and Government Relations for BHP Billiton Coal NSW) and Ali Burston (WIMnet NSW's Mentoring Program Director from Metisphere [organisational psychology services], based in Perth).

So, WIMnet is the Women in Mining network which was founded in about 2000 and has ~4000 members (although it is also under the auspices of the AusIMM which has ~15,000 members - members of WIMnet do not have to be members of the AusIMM). And WIMnet (which costs nothing to join) is also supported by the members of the various State Chambers, such as the Queensland Resources Council and NSW's Mineral Council.

The national entity, WIMnet undertakes policy and advocacy initiatives, with the various state entities primarily involved with running networking, professional development and mentoring programmes. WIMnet's overall goal is to assist with the attraction and retention of women in the resources industry.

The launch that I was attending was in fact WIMnet NSW's Mentoring Programme which is an initiative of WIMnet (WIMnet NSW being NSW's women in mining network). The mentoring programme aims to advance the careers of women in the mining industry.

As Fiona commented, she noticed that there still appeared to be about the same number of women in senior mining industry positions as when she left Delta Gold ~20 years' ago - and why was that ?

As Fiona said "it has been stated that for many women it is not a case of trying to break through the glass ceiling to advance their career, it is more a case of how to get past the 'concrete block' and that is why it is so critical in the programme to pair mentees with mentors that have significant experience in the same field". Consequently Fiona as a mentor (and ex CFO) has mentees in accounting etc.

WIMnet NSW's Mentoring Programme appears to be the brainchild of Fiona Robertson (and her committee), and this was the second program launch of 37 mentees. In 2015 there were 23 applicants for the 20 available mentee positions. The mentees are women with typically 3 to over 20 years' experience and of the 2016 intake, ~one third are engineers, with the remainder covering geology, accounting, environment, logistics, organizational development and processing.

There are 28 female and 9 male mentors in the 2016 NSW programme (drawn from a larger pool of mentors), typically with 5 to over 15 years' managerial or senior management experience who are paired with mentees according to similar disciplines. The mentors have no connection with the employer or place of work of the mentee, and mentees hence receive comprehensive training and ongoing educational correspondence, with the development of career goals and support from an experienced friendly professional in their industry.

So far there are currently 11 sponsors to the programme in NSW : being gold (Orica, and Coal & Allied), silver (Downer, Glencore, ANZ, Weir Minerals, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and Port Waratah Coal Services) and bronze (Energetics, Ernst & Young, and McCullough Robertson). The sponsors obviously provide finance to the programme, and in NSW each mentee contributes $1,000 to the programme. A scholarship means a mentee receives a "freebie" or their $1,000 back, ie effectively free participation in the programme.

The WIMnet Mentoring Programme actually started in WA, where it is run by WIMWA (womeninmining.com) and has been operating for 5 years and has had ~300 successful mentees so far. WIMWA now has two programmes per year with about 40 to 50 mentees per programme. In Queensland it is delivered by WIMARQ (womeninminingqueensland.com), and has been operational for about 3 years with 60 successful mentees so far, and its 2016 programme for 35 mentees starts in July 2016.

Queensland was initially supported by the Government, but with the change in Government there, it is now (like other states) supported by the industry. There is also a WIMnet NT and WIMnet SA, that like WIMnet NSW operates under the auspices of the AusIMM (ausimm.com.au/wimnet).

WIMnet NSW (www.ausimm.com.au/wimnetnsw)'s Mentoring Programme, like the other state organisations, includes 3 networking sessions per year, being for 2016 : the Launch (6 May), Mid-way (11 August) and Celebration (20 October).

For NSW, the programme is held over a 5-month period from May to October.

At the first meeting, Ali Burston gives a 3-hour training session to the mentees on the structure of the programme, identifying issues and enabling the mentees to intermingle as a group followed by lunch. The mentees are given the name of their mentor and suggested to Google them so that they know the background of their mentors before meeting them.

In the afternoon Ali (an organisational psychologist) gives a 2-and-a half hour workshop session to the mentors who are told what the mentees have been given, such that the onus is really on the mentee to drive the programme arrangements. Ali advises the mentors on how to conduct successful mentoring partnerships, and then the mentors and mentees meet for the Launch in the late afternoon/evening. The mentors and mentees then typically meet every 3 weeks over the 5-month period and hence meet 6 or 7 times over the course of the programme to discuss progress. Meetings are typically face-to-face, or by skype or telephone.

Ali maintains periodic, ongoing contact with the mentors and mentees during the programme to provide additional guidance. Should an issue occur (which sometimes happens) where it is outside of the mentor's knowledge or experience, then the mentor can receive suggestions from Ali on how to handle the issue.

The Mid-way session is centred around networking from a practical perspective for mentors and mentees. It can be seen that both mentors and mentees benefit from the programme. Ali also covers WIMWA's & WIMARQ's mentoring programmes, but not those of the other WIMnets (NT & SA).

As Fiona commented, WIMnet NSW is gradually growing and becoming recognised. Who knows in the future a similar organisation could exist for males, after all the "concrete block" issues are not gender specific (or apply only to the mining industry) as I am sure many could concur that have had similar experiences in their own workplaces.

On the second day of the upbeat Sydney RIU conference on 12 May 2016, the Master of Ceremonies Gerry Gannon, stated that this is the first time that there has been 3 women presenters at an RIU conference, and it was encouraging to see. One of the later female presenters, Melanie Sutterby, the Geology Manager at Ausgold (AUC.ax), began her speech by first thanking a member of the audience (Andrew Tunks) for mentoring her. Melanie stated that without that mentoring experience she would not be in the position she was today (confidently presenting as Ausgold's Geology Manager to an audience at a conference).

WIMnet NSW, and its sister organisations, are clearly proving to be very valuable in developing the careers of women in all aspects of the mining industry.

Disclosure and Disclaimer : This article has been written by Keith Goode, the Managing Director of Eagle Research Advisory Pty Ltd, (an independent research company) who is a Financial Services Representative with Taylor Collison Ltd (AFSL 247083).

Figure. Attendees at the NSW WIMnet Launch in May 2016

fig1 wimnet may16v2

  • Written by: Keith Goode
  • Wednesday, 12 October 2016