Sometimes throughout our careers, whether we’re just starting or have been working for years in the same job, we can reach a point where we’re unsure of the direction we’re headed and need some support to find our way.
In the NSW mining industry, there is a program for women who might feel that way called the WIMNet NSW Mentoring Program.
This is the 9th year the program has run, for the last few under the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) banner, which is the peak body for people working in the resources sector across the country.
The program aims to support and retain women in the mining industry, but also enhance career progression and help guide them along the way. It’s made up of mentors from across the industry who are paired up with employees, or mentees.
Adam Lancey, the Vice President of NSW Energy Coal at BHP’s Mt Arthur Coal mine in Muswellbrook has been part of the program as a mentor since he received the NSW Diversity Champion Award in 2016.
“With an appreciation of the importance mentoring provides for all people, but particularly women who may have had challenges in what has been historically a very male-dominated industry, I felt this program was a great way to lend support and share my experience if that was useful,” said Adam.
Each year, WIMNet put the call out to the mining sector for mentors and mentees to be a part of the program. Both go through an application process which includes putting together a personality profile so you can be matched with the appropriate person.
The program runs for six or seven months each year with regular catchups between mentors and mentees either in person or online or a combination of both.
“The way that it works has been pretty successful. You may not always get paired up with someone who has the same career orientation as you, but you might just get along really well,” Adam said.
He said the mentees he has been paired with over the years are usually looking for career advice on how to advance in their job, but also a lot are looking for advice on self-confidence and how to manage self-doubt.
“There’s a range of different topics, questions and focus areas that a mentee may wish to explore, it can be very personal and it varies greatly from mentee to mentee. Some may be looking for career advice, time management techniques, returning to work from maternity leave or being in roles where they aren’t being supported or having difficulties with their leader.
“Hopefully mentees come out of the program with a broader network, someone they can bounce ideas or issues off with greater self-awareness and confidence, or some small tools and techniques that I can share for 1:1 engagements or time management.”
While the mentees get a lot out of the program, the mentors do as well and that’s another reason why Adam has continued to be involved in it.
“I’ve found the confidence in my career journey and being comfortable in my own skin a big thing to come out of it. Seeing others who are challenged or struggling with similar issues to those I have encountered reinforces things for me and what I’ve done on my journey.
“Often it isn’t about the answer, but the listening, encouragement, support and reassurance is what it is about.
“Mentors often comment on the fact that whilst they don’t go into the process expecting anything for themselves, they often come out the other side with a range of personal outcomes that they perhaps didn’t even contemplate.”
While Adam is very positive about the program and what it does, he’s honest that not every mentor and mentee partnership works out.
“I’ve had some hits and I’ve had some fails, I’ll be honest.
“One of the things the program articulates very clearly is that mentees have to drive it. I’m there because I want to be there and if they choose not to take the opportunity that has been entrusted to them.”
Adam has been a part of the Hunter Valley mining industry for more than 20 years and believes the strongest workforce is one that has both men and women working together as a team.
Something that has come a long way over the years.
“I am pleased to see the shift, in both the number of women joining the industry and also the retention of women, and the momentum being generated through programs like the WIMnet Mentoring Program.
“Mt Arthur Coal currently has 23% female representation and a gender-balanced Asset and Operational leadership team of 30 people.
“We know that more inclusive and diverse teams perform better – actually approx. 15% better, and they are also happier and more innovative.”