Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie says he believes that greater diversity will improve performance and productivity at the organisation, and will announce the ‘aspirational goal’ for gender equality at the company’s annual meeting in London this week.
Women currently make up just 17 per cent of Melbourne-based BHP’s global workforce. In a message to staff, Mackenzie described the target as ‘challenging’ and that it is not binding. Nevertheless he acknowledged the company required ‘significant change’.
“It makes us more accountable; it underpins the depth of our commitment and lets the world know we are serious,” said Mackenzie.
BHP’s 2025 target will apply to its entire workforce including the board. Senior managers will have a specific performance goal of increasing female representation by three per cent each year.
In January of this year Mackenzie flagged his intention to ‘shift the dial’ on gender diversity at BHP. He has acknowledged, however, that the new measures could meet some resistance within the organisation.
“I’ve heard the concerns,” he said, “some employees think inclusion and diversity is not an area where we can make significant progress; some think women don’t want to work in the mining industry, and some male employees have concerns they may be discriminated against or overlooked for promotion.”
“So let me say this – the path to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace will be challenging as significant change often is. It will require us to make inclusion and diversity a greater priority. It will demand that we question our own biases when we make decisions, that we make our workplaces more flexible and that we challenge dated stereotypes about jobs in the resources industry.
“However, we will not disadvantage anyone. Instead we will give everyone – men and women – an equal opportunity. No one's job is under threat because they are male. But we will work to remove the unconscious bias that, in my view, women have been disadvantaged by for a very long time in a male-dominated environment.”
According to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, in 2014-15, women made up just 16 per cent of minding industry employees.
Resources giant BHP Billiton has announced that it intends to make half of its workforce female in just nine years, an almost unprecedentedly ambitious gender target for a company of its size.