Mining's macho culture 'must be addressed'

Efforts to get more women into the mining industry won't work until the hyper-masculine culture of mining is addressed, according to industry consultant Dr Dean Laplonge.

An academic and director of the cultural research consultancy Factive, Dr Laplonge delivered one of the presentations at Engaging Men in Building Gender Equity, a two-day conference at the University of Wollongong, which ends today.

Discussions over the two days include engaging boys in building gender equity; social marketing to prevent men's violence against women; rugby league against violence; and the media's portrayal of men's mental-health outcomes.

Dr Laplonge's presentation was called Mining With(out) Masculinity and dealt with gender and sexuality in the industry.

A consultant to mining companies both here and in Canada, Dr Laplonge said that having discussions about gender issues on mining sites was crucial to getting more women into the industry.

"Where you don't have a much broader discussion about men's behaviour on mining sites, it makes it very difficult for a lot of women to step on those mining sites," Dr Laplonge said.

"It's not that they're weak, it's just that it's not a nice environment for a lot of women. It's also not a nice environment for a lot of men as well."

It wasn't just about being sensitive to the gender imbalance because, for mining companies, there could be a financial benefit to making their mining sites more appealing, he said.

"In an industry that wants more skills and more diversity, at the moment it's got a very small workforce that they can choose from who are willing to go into that industry because they can do that kind of hyper-masculinity very well.

"The majority are men but some women as well - they can survive in that industry. Then you have to pay them a lot of money because you have such a small workforce.

"And for people this isn't just work, this is life - they live on these mine sites for 14 days.

"It's necessary to have a much broader discussion about gender, and the impacts of gender on the entire business of your mine site."

The conference is hosted by the Centre for Research on Men and Masculinities.

Dr Michael Flood, the centre co-director and a senior lecturer in sociology, said the conference was focused on the role men could play in building gender equity.

"Men's roles - in stopping violence against women, fostering equitable workplaces and sharing parenting - are now on the public agenda," Dr Flood said.

"There's widespread recognition that men have a vital role to play in helping to build a more gender-equal world.

"At the same time, this work is difficult and delicate. The conference will highlight the promise and the problems of engaging men," he said.

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