Ngaire Baker has worked in a variety of communications, marketing and PR roles over the years for a variety of mining companies and suppliers including more recently Orica Australia, Downer EDI Mining Blasting Services and Schenck Process Australia, suppliers to the quarry industry, as well as mining. She was recently listed as the tenth most influential woman in mining in an awards ceremony conducted by Australian Mining.
?To be honest, it was quite a shock to be named in a list with the other nine women. An honour, I suppose, but also quite a shock because I?ve never thought of myself as firstly a woman in mining or an influential one,? said Baker who has been working in the mining industry for around 25 years.
?My first foray into the mining industry was marrying a mining engineer. As a journalist I found myself following him to Kalgoorlie where I worked at the daily paper The Kalgoorlie Miner. This was to be my introduction to the mining industry as such, I ended up working for a company called CBS Explosives, one of the original explosives companies which no longer exist,? Baker recalled.
?Following Kalgoorlie, I put my journalism skills to work in a variety of mining companies from gold to copper and then iron ore. I had the opportunity to join one of the major iron ore producers in the Pilbara, Western Australia. We were called public relations officers back then and the role was certainly exciting and interesting. I was responsible for internal and external communications, photography and publications, corporate affairs, site tours, media relations, and community and stakeholder relations and I had the opportunity to fly out to an iron ore ship and stay on board as it berthed. It was a once in a life time opportunity.
?Thinking back those 20 or so years, I don?t remember working with many other professional women in the mining industry, in gold or iron ore, but at the time I certainly didn?t think, ?I am a woman, and I am the only one!??
Currently working mainly in New South Wales and Queensland coal, Baker is also mentoring a young woman with a communications degree who needs some guidance with working in the industry. ?One of the company directors approached me and asked ‘Would you mentor Ashleigh?’ because there?s nobody in their business that knows exactly what she does,? Baker explained.
?She wants to pursue a career in the mining industry but sometimes feels she is banging her head against a wall because she doesn?t know where to turn to for advice. So I do see myself as a role model. I?ve tried to show young ladies that you don?t have to be a mining engineer, a geologist or a truck driver, you can be a journalist, or work in public relations and you can make a difference in the mining industry.?
Baker has never felt there were barriers in the industry, although she admits to seeing the industry change during her time. ?I think definitely now, there have been huge in-roads by mining and quarrying companies to accommodate women into what were traditionally male dominated roles. There has been some magnificent work carried out by the WA, Queensland and NSW Women In Mining organisations to promote and encourage women of all ages to join the industry.
?On mine sites, you now see women in a variety of roles. I know the statistics still aren?t high, in terms of percentages, but they?re certainly on the increase, compared to where they were five years ago. When I was at Orica, the company was certainly at the forefront of promoting diversity in their operations and promoting women in mining and quarrying roles. That?s one company where I?ve seen women carrying out a variety of non-traditional roles.?
Baker said the thing that struck her the most about the list of the ten most influential women in mining is that she was the only individual who was not an engineer or truck driver, or a director of a company.
?I?ve worked and lived in some of Australia?s most remote mines and mining towns, I have loved every minute, worked hard and I hope I have made a difference in an industry where I?m not one of your traditional mining people. It was an amazing honour to be included on that list just for doing something that I have a passion about and I hope to continue doing for some time.?
As identified by Australian Mining, the ten most influential women in mining are:
? Gina Rinehart, executive chairman, Hancock Prospecting.
? Vanessa Gunthrie, managing director, Toro Energy.
? Julie Shuttleworth, general manager, Barrick Australia.
? Stefanie Loader, managing director, Rio Tinto Northparkes mine.
? Dr Nikki Williams, chief executive officer, Australian Coal.
? Lisa Mirtsopoulos, dump truck driver, Newmont, and author of the e-book Dump Truck Discovery: How to get a job driving dump trucks.
? Caris House, Rio Tinto health and safety superintendent of technical assurance.
? Paula West, Alcoa senior mechanical engineer for the calcination and shipping port at Alcoa?s Kwinana Refinery.
? The ladies from the Mining Family Matters website.
? Ngaire Baker, Baker Mining PR.
With thanks to Ngaire Baker for her comments.