It is a well-known fact that females are largely under-represented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields with women making up only 16 percent of the STEM workforce in Australia.
The following statement should therefore be of no surprise:
“The Australian labour market is highly gender-segregated by industry and occupation, a pattern that has persisted over the past two decades.”
– Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2018
However, on an encouraging note, the Agency did find that female representation in some traditionally male-dominated industries like mining, energy, water and waste services have experienced growth over the last decade. Furthermore, the proportion of females in management in these industries have seen a substantial increase of nearly 8 percent since 1998, taking overall female managers to over one-third of managers across male-dominated industries.
In support of this trajectory of growth, it is more important than ever that we continue to take active steps in fostering the next generation of female leaders in STEM, and hopefully inspire and help build rewarding careers in mining. Recently, the opportunity came up when global mining innovator BHP kindly invited Airobotics to participate in a Careers Day event in Western Australia.
Min Hardman, RePL-qualified Drone Pilot, Flight Deck System Operator and Remote Operations Centre Manager, relished being able to share her unique job experiences with students from the local high school.
In preparation for her talk, it also gave her time to reflect. Min sat with us for a Q&A on her mining journey to date:
How did you end up working in the mining industry?
I was 21 when I started in mining. My career began in Lienster, Western Australia, when I was hired as a Utility. I wanted to do “everything”. I never said no to a course, ticket, or a different role. I ended up getting my forklift licence and spent my days unloading trucks. I then got the opportunity to go to Barrow Island as part of the mobilisation team. We put together the first construction camp (fly camp) to house the people building the second permanent construction camp. I started this project when there was just the three off us living at the fly camp and when I left, there was more than 4,000 people living between the two camps.
What sparked your interest in drones?
I’m one of those people who is determined to learn new things and work hard to master them. I stand up paddle board, however, I fell in love with paddle boarding even before I had tried it. One day I saw someone doing it and I was like, “yep, that’s for me!” It was the same story with drones, without ever flying one, I was hooked. I was lucky enough to get one for Christmas a few years back and it was as amazing as I thought it would be.
What would your advice be to someone who is keen to obtain the same drone pilot qualifications?
Going online is a great start. Google ‘RePL licences Australia’. There are now multiple companies in WA alone that provide training courses. It is a week-long course including both theory and practical elements. Get started flying drones and understand how they fly. A starter drone costs about $25 and will give you all the fundamentals of being able to fly any drone.
What were some of your career challenges, and what might you have done differently?
I unfortunately ended up having a hard time working on Barrow Island. It had nothing to do with a working roster of four weeks on and one week off, rather, it was because of a person. For no reason that I could understand, one person made my life utterly miserable. This person would express lies to my supervisor about my performance and it made me physically sick. Every plane ride back to site, I would wonder what would be next. I wanted to quit a job that I had wanted for personal development, just because of someone else. If I could go back in time, I would trust myself more, stand up for myself, speak to HR, and look for a resolution. Being on the mines can be a challenge, even without altercations, but remember there is always someone you can speak to, someone to seek advice from. These resources are available.
What are the top 3 things that keep you passionate about mining and new technologies like drones?
Mining plays such a big part of Western Australia and it’s not going anywhere soon. I’m passionate with how we are changing the way we execute in mining and how it is empowering and employing the younger generation. Who knows, having the ability to play a PlayStation can land you a job driving trucks!
The most exciting thing with the sector that I am in would be seeing that it all works. Drones are used on mine sites daily now.
We are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilising remote operations. The first line of defence is elimination — the less people activity working on site means the less likelihood there is of miners not making it home.
Min Hardman is a RePL-Certified Pilot for UAVs up to 25 kgs. WA-born and bred, Min has been working in the mining industry for over 10 years. She is also an accomplished photographer (with drones as well of course!). When she is not working on the Airobotics automated drone platform on site, she takes beauties like these: