Written by Karen Hudman, Senior Consultant, Executive Search

I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Women in Mining WA (WIMWA) annual summit on Friday 27th September held at the Crown Towers in Burswood, WA. It keeps getting bigger and better and I believe there were over 1,200 attendee’s this year. Once again the event was an outstanding success with quality content and interesting speakers that not only impart their knowledge, wisdom and insight but always manage to inspire, challenge and motivate attendees.

The Welcome message was delivered beautifully by the amazing Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. Leigh Sales’ sidekick Annabel Crabb was unavailable this year but Leigh did an amazing job flying solo hosting the opening remarks and Chairing a discussion with Graham Kerr, CEO of South32 and the Wrap Up Panel with her interesting guests which included Jan Fran, Caroline Criado Perez, Cordelia Fine and Sabina Shugg.

Leigh reminded us that in this day of equal opportunity that in regards to inappropriate behaviour in and out of the workplace, ‘the standard you walk past is the standard you accept’. Graham Kerr (South32) spoke to us about equality, diversity and calling out inappropriate behaviour. He strives hard to model a healthy work/family life balance by leading and encouraging flexible working at South32. He is a member of the Male Champions of Change Institute that works with influential leaders to redefine men’s role in taking action on gender inequality.

Joanne Farrell gave us an inspiring speech on the eve of her retirement after 35 years of working in the industry. She reminded us to know your ‘who-ness’, identify what you stand for and stay true to that. Bring your whole self to work and don’t feel you have to change due to external pressures (i.e. acting more ‘male’ because it is expected). She reminded us to reach out put your hand down the ladder to assist other women.

Jan Fran lead an engaging discussion with Professor Cordelia Fine and Caroline Criado Perez about male standards and women being on the peripheral, for example the optimum office temperature which was set in the 1960’s is set to that of an average man and is often too cold for a female, medications are tested on the average male and dosages are not always optimum for a female and crash test dummies are based on the average male with safety harness straps not taking into consideration differences in chest, hip and thighs. Female PPE is usually ill-fitting and often hamper females work in the workplace. The reminded us that Women leaders do not need to have the same traits as male leaders, there is room for and benefit in different types of leadership including quiet leadership.

Melinda McDonald from BHP inspired us with her very personal story of adversity where she received a verbal knockback in her career which derailed her before she was able to finally get back on track. Her presentation about courage, resilience and bouncing back was both shocking and hopeful.

It was great to hear from Robert Wood again, Professor and Director at the Futures Academy, University of Technology in Sydney who reminded us all that we need to facilitate inclusion from women in discussions and projects, don’t just tell them they need to be more confident and when you are encouraging and giving feedback to women, start with the strengths and positive contributions they make before starting to talk about their shortfalls.

We all love to listen to Dr Stephanie Burns. Her discussion about communication was entertaining and eye opening. If there is an issue with someone not understanding you, it is not their fault. Your approach should be what did I do to cause your confusion? This provides you feedback so that you can communicate it better the next time around. Take personal responsibility for the ineffectiveness of your communication, what can you do differently, read your audience and adjust, make sure you are coherent and articulate and if you lack confidence in an area, use that as a focus to improve yourself in that area, don’t let it put you off from doing something.

In the wrap up panel Sabina Shugg, Founder and Chair of WIMWA reminded to equip ourselves to manage and respond to situations in the workplace. She made a very valid point that when something happens, we sometimes don’t know how to respond straight away and think of a response that we could have done later on but if we are ready we are able to respond when it happens we can call it out and help to shut it down. If someone is laughing at someone else’s expense or making an inappropriate comment, call them to task and ask why they said that and why they think it is funny. Be armed with statistics and facts! I think it was Sabina who said at the beginning of the summit (and I apologise if I have misquoted and it was someone else) that “Quotas don’t promote inadequate women but they stop the promotion of mediocre men”.

Huge congratulations to Sabina and the WIMWA team for developing another outstanding event.

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