Mining boss: ‘Women undersell themselves’



Women don’t sell themselves well enough to win top-paying jobs in mining, according to the CEO of Rio Tinto Sam Walsh.

Perhaps surprisingly, feminists and diversity activists agree that women undersell themselves and are less confident, while suggesting systemic changes to accommodate women in leadership.

Mr Walsh said women weren’t rising up the corporate ladder in the male-dominated mining industry because men are confident, and women aren’t.

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“One of the biggest challenges is that you throw a job opportunity at a bloke and he says, ‘I can do that, I’ve got all the background, I know exactly what I should do’,” Mr Walsh told a mining dinner in London on Thursday.

“You throw the same opportunity at a woman and … well ‘I’ve never done that before, it would be a huge stretch’, and what-have-you,” he said.

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While acknowledging miners had to close the 22 per cent pay gap between genders, he said women who make it to the top would be a “strong part” of the senior management team.

He said men “do stretch the facts a little bit and the women here need to have more confidence in your own ability to adapt, your ability to be resilient, your ability to be flexible and responsive to a new challenge and you need to take a risk”.

Diversity Council of Australia CEO Lisa Annese said the stereotype for a senior manager was white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual and male, or “what is referred to as the ‘boy’s club’ network”, she said.

“I think we need to focus more on broadening the leadership model, rather than focus on women adopting stereotypical masculine traits,” she said.

“When we look at leaders is a very narrow model of individual that gets through.”

Feminist commentator and a founder of Destroy the Joint, Jenna Price, said women are more likely to undersell their abilities.

“It definitely happens, women undersell themselves far, far too much,” she said.

“We are conditioned to be humble.

“One thing we can do is change the culture to make women more confident, and another thing is to make men more questioning, more realistic about their abilities.”

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