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WA female directors back FMG’s Elizabeth Gaines view that gender inequality persists

WA female directors have echoed the disappointment expressed by outgoing Fortescue Metals Group boss Elizabeth Gaines that gender inequality in ASX-listed companies persists.

Jude Mahony, director of business management consultant company Optimal Resourcing, said she expected to be having a different conversation in this day and age around gender equality.

“I’ve worked around the world and when I decided to work within the Perth market, I was really quite taken aback at how we hadn’t progressed very far,” Ms Mahony said.

“I’m shocked, saddened and frustrated because we’ve got such a big opportunity to actually make a difference.

“My daughter is 29 years old and I honestly thought she would not be facing the same challenges I did 30 years ago.”

Caroline de Mori, founder and director of not-for-profit organisation EON Foundation, said the “old boys network” was still very much alive, particularly in the resources sector.

Caroline de Mori, founder and director of not-for-profit organisation EON Foundation.
Camera IconCaroline de Mori, founder and director of not-for-profit organisation EON Foundation. Credit: Supplied/Caroline de Mori

Ms De Mori said it was disappointing that was the case.

“Companies need to take the risk of trying to go to a different pool (of talent) and recognising that women do think differently and bring different skills, and that’s an asset,” she said.

“Elizabeth Gaines is a fabulous example of a female leader, who has been leading FMG and has done an amazing job.”

Addressing her fifth and final Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie on Tuesday, Ms Gaines said little had changed in the gender diversity space since she was appointed FMG’s chief executive in 2018, a time when media fixated on her gender.

Ms Gaines also noted only five out of the 71 speakers at this year’s Diggers were female, equating to just 7 per cent, to which Ms Mahony described as “quite astonishing”.

“Especially when you look around our industry and you look around WA, there’s so many amazing women that are in the mining industry and the resources industry that could contribute, and do contribute, but aren’t being offered those opportunities,” Ms Mahony said.

Tiffany Allen, chief executive of Perth-based government statutory body Construction Training Fund, said it was disappointing to see Australia not as progressive compared to other countries.

“Sometimes, what we’re seeing is a tick box culture, that (companies) have to meet a quota as opposed to valuing the person and their views,” Ms Allen said.

“It’s one thing to have a seat a the table, it’s another thing to have a voice and then finally, it’s having a voice that’s heard.”

Ms Mahony and Ms Allen agreed it was a continuous uphill battle to get more women in senior ranks.

“We need to shake the tree. We need support and sponsorship of additional childcare places because that’s what prevents women, as primary caregivers, from going back into the workforce,” Ms Mahony said.

“As for the females, they need to start with an end goal. If they want to be a chief executive or senior leader, what will that look like and what type of support they will need from family, society, community.”

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