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The MTEC Gender Diversity Luncheons

5 Nov 2014

The Luncheons

As the minerals industry, and indeed the Australian economy, seek effective methods to continue productivity and efficiency growth, employee inclusivity and engagement is an imperative factor that cannot be ignored. The MCA and its members also recognise that a wider pool of talent is critical to staying competitive and that by acknowledging and investing in women our economy can yield a significant dividend.

The MTEC Gender Diversity Luncheons brought together industry leaders, educators, student groups, and students from Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales in August and September to discuss the ways we can collectively and meaningfully support gender diversity within university engineering and science streams.



Attendance Number


University of Queensland


59 Guests

UQ Pamphlet


University of Western Australia


50 Guests

UWA Pamphlet


University of New South Wales


46 Guests

UNSW Pamphlet



The Schedule

The luncheon events were designed as opportunities for participants to share experiences, lessons learned, and look to build diverse participation at university, within the workforce, and indeed the minerals industry.

All luncheons shared a similar format, divided between two main discussion sessions. The table below highlights the order of events.




Welcome & Registration

11:45am to 12:00pm

Event organisers greeted guests and guided them to their respective seating

Entrée from 12:00pm to 12:45pm

Welcome & Panel Introductions

12:00pm to 12:10pm

Facilitator welcomed guests and introduced panellists

Audience Activity A


 Postit Note Activity: Barrier

Play MCA Women in Mining Video

12:10pm to 12:20pm

 Participants were asked to think about a barrier to women selecting science and engineer subjects and write it on a postit note.

Discussion Session #1

12:20pm to 12:45pm

The facilitator engaged with panel members on the three areas of inquir

Main Course 12:45pm to 13:30pm

Discussion Session #2

12:45pm to 13:20pm

The facilitator used some of the postit note responses to generate comment and feedback from the audience, and then invited them to ask questions of the panel.

Audience Activity B


 Postit Note Activity: Solution

Vote of Thanks

13:20pm to 13:30pm

Kirstie Jackson - BHP Billiton

Networking Event

13:00pm +

Tea and coffee served


A collaborative approach

MTEC recognises that collaboration is, at its root, a social activity. It is founded on generosity, sharing and openness. The event would not have even been possible without collaboration from the three respective university Women in Engineering programs. MTEC also received financial and in-kind support from the Queensland Resources Council, the Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy, and the New South Wales Minerals Council. BHP Billiton also contributed generously to the event. The qualities of generosity, sharing and openness were certainly on display at our luncheon events, with participants contributing meaningfully to the panel discussions and Q&A sessions.

The luncheons were well facilitated by Dr Gavin Lind and Mr. Chris James. They worked with a panel of invited industry champions, experienced educators, student groups and students, who helped guide discussions in the following areas:

1). Succeeding in the workplace

Industry panel members told their stories, spoke of their challenges, and dared audience members to follow in their shoes. For example, at the University of Queensland luncheon, BHP Billiton Asset President (Cannington Mine) and 2014 Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources award recipient Laura Tyler provided a frank and insightful account of her personal journey into geology and how she had made it to a position of seniority within a world-class organisation in a highly dynamic industry where there is no shortage of highly skilled and highly competitive mele compatriots. The audience from all three luncheons were inspired by how the industry and university representatives had succeeded in their respective environments.

The following video was developed in partnership between the Minerals Council of Australia and BHP Billiton, and was presented to audience members at the three luncheons.


2). Increased participation of female engineers at university level and beyond

The overriding theme that emerged from all three luncheons was that earlier engagement is essential in order to show young girls the possibilities that science and engineering can offer them, but also that they have the ability to meet the intellectual rigors of these two disciplines as well as the boy. At the UNSW luncheon, UNSW Mining Engineering student and MCA-BHP Billiton Women in Engineering scholar Annette Au told the story of how she had no intention of following an engineering route until a female engineer came to her high school and inspired her to pursue this path. Now Annette is emulating this role herself by inspiring school girls to pursue higher education in engineering. In addition, Robogals, who participated as panel guests at all three luncheons, were exemplars of how this interface with school-aged children can take place; that it is not about ‘reinventing the wheel’, but about understanding what already exists, and leveraging off and supporting such groups and individuals.

3). The challenges of supporting gender diversity within engineering and science streams

The challenges of supporting gender diversity within engineering and science streams resemble the many challenges that females face across Australia’s wider workforce. Challenges such as balancing family relationships with work and research, leaving work to start a family, maintaining education and industry links on maternity leave, and navigating through a male dominated, and sometimes complex work environment. For students they voiced a desire for greater engagement with industry – some advocating for mentors – and role models who they can aspire to emulate.

Postit Note Challenge: Barriers and Solutions

Luncheon guests participated in a ‘postit note’ exercise at the commencement and end of proceedings. They were asked to write down a perceived barrier to getting more females interested in university science and engineering programs. This activity also helped participants think about their own experiences or any issues they might like to raise in the course of the event. At the end of the second and final discussion session, participants were asked to write down a perceived solution to the barrier they initially wrote down. The postit notes were collected and and posted on a wall under the respective headings.

Barriers to Entry

The postit comments were subsequently entered onto a spreadsheet for analysis. On reviewing the respondents’ statements, it was clear that while the responses were varied, they could be classified into 10 general barriers. Of note, 50% of responses were classified into just three general barriers:

  1. Stereotypes – Many respondents felt school-aged female students were unconsciously discouraged from pursing the “masculine” subjects of engineering and science. Also, career outcomes were seen as not commensurate to female aptitude, strength, or interest.
  2. Career Knowledge – Many respondents felt there was a disconnect between what the students were studying at an early age and how this translates into meaningful career pathways and what scientists and engineers actually do.
  3. Subject Awareness – Many respondents felt school-aged female students did not meaningfully understanding how subject choice impacts their ability to select science and engineering subjects at university.



Solution to Entry

At the end of the second session, participants were asked to write down a solution that they believed would help encourage more female students into science and engineering disciplines. The responses were as broad as they were dynamic and at times ‘outside of the box’:

You need to focus on interactive "challenges" around year 6-9. There can be “tournaments of minds", "Robogals" to really get people interested. Seeing successful role models encourages the perception that there is a viable pathway in the industry for women. You (also) need to target parents to suggest engineering to their daughters too. Don't underestimate a parent's influence.

The ‘solution’ postit note responses and similarly categorised into 10 themes. And like the themes deriving from the ‘barriers,’ 3 general solutions accounted for almost 50 per cent of responses. They included:

  1. Industry Awareness / Exposure: Many of the respondents felt that industry was best placed to bridge the divide between subject choice and career outcomes.
  2. Early STEM exposure: Many respondents saw the importance of early exposure of female school-aged students to STEM subjects.
  3. Teaching Quality / Education: Many respondents saw the quality of teaching and their knowledge of STEM and career outcomes as very important in students making subject and career choices.

Connecting People

Another important outcome of the luncheon was connecting industry, educators, and students. Notwithstanding the fact that the solutions proposed require a collective response, it provided an excellent opportunity to connect those who are passionate about this important topic and want to see meaningful change when it comes to diversity and inclusivity at the education and industry level.


The MTEC Gender Diversity Luncheons held in the three mining states in August and September 2014 brought together industry, educators, and students. The purpose of these luncheons was to discuss how we can collectively increase participation of female students into university science and engineering subjects. The well organised, and well attended luncheons provided a platform to share experiences, views, and solutions to an issue that has broad social and economic implications. The luncheons were exemplars of how industry, educators, and students can work together to solve social issues with benefits to all parties.

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