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Press for progress: diversity makes good business sense

8 March 2018

On International Women's Day, CEO Elizabeth Gaines shares her thoughts on the importance of diversity in the workplace.

On International Women's Day, CEO Elizabeth Gaines shares her thoughts on the importance of diversity in the workplace. 

I grew up in the Kimberley where the benefits of diversity came to me from a very early age – when I found myself sitting in a classroom full of children from all walks of life, bringing a range of different experiences and perspectives.

Encouraging diversity is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

There is empirical evidence that diversity in the boardroom can deliver better outcomes for shareholders.

In recent years, strong progress has been made on this front and I am proud that today Fortescue is leading the way with over 50 per cent female representation on our Board of Directors.

However, if you take a look at Australia’s top ASX100 companies, there are currently more CEOs with the name ‘Dave’ or ‘John’ then there are women.

More needs to be done to ensure that we are encouraging women to take up roles in the C-suite by providing more balance and flexibility in the workplace to ensure that executive careers remain attractive.

At Fortescue, we have a plan for diversity and it is our people and our leaders that are working hard to make it happen.

We recognise that we need the best ideas across every part of our business and the best ideas come from a diverse workforce.

This starts with consultation across the entire business and hearing directly from our team members about what diversity means to them.

Family is at the core of Fortescue’s values and one of our biggest achievements in our journey to greater diversity has been the introduction of a flexible workplace, especially for female team members juggling their careers and family commitments.

Setting the tone for a flexible workplace starts with our leaders and we encourage them to understand the needs of individual team members, and offer them a variety of flexible working options including job shares. This applies not just to our office-based workforce but to those on shift work or working on our operating sites on a FIFO roster.

Last year, the Fortescue Family Room was introduced to specifically address challenges faced by parents through providing them with alternative child minding services. Recently, we announced the Family Room would open 24/7 to support team members on shift work.  

If we want to benefit from greater diversity in the resources sector, we also need to ensure we are building a greater pool of talent.

Only one per cent of Western Australia’s apprentices and trainees are women and at Fortescue we are building a pipeline of women who are ready to pursue a career in the trades. 

Programs such as Fortescue’s Trade Up and Vocational Training and Employment Centres are providing female team members with practical measures to gain trade qualifications and we are proud that Trade Up now boasts a 25 per cent female participation rate.

At our rail operations, we are trialling a traineeship program aimed at female school leavers, offering them with an entry-level position and providing a clear career pathway from shunting to a possible future as a train driver.   

On International Women’s Day, we recognise that as a company there will be challenges on the way to achieving greater diversity in the workplace. However, we will continue to press for progress and as we say at Fortescue – never, ever give up!