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In October this year, we announced an aspirational goal to achieve gender balance at all levels of BHP Billiton by 2025.

In recent years we have focused on increasing female representation throughout the Company – from the graduates to the Board. We’ve had some success increasing the participation rate to 16% in 2016. However, at our current rate it will take us 30 years to achieve 30% participation of females in our workforce.

For me, redressing this imbalance isn’t just the right thing to do, it could be worth billions of dollars too.

Analysis of our performance metrics uncovered a range of benefits of inclusive and diverse teams, particularly where employees are empowered to act. We found:

  • Improved safety performance (Total Recordable Injury Frequency) – inclusive and diverse operations are more willing to speak up on safety and follow safe work practices.
  • Improved maintenance performance – because inclusive and diverse teams more closely adhere to planned work.
  • Improved employee engagement outcomes – teams rate their job, their leader and BHP Billiton more favourably.

These improvements have led to better production performance, with teams more likely to meet their production plans.

Given all the variables at play, it’s hard to forecast exactly how this will translate to the bottom line, but so far as a Company we’ve achieved more than US$10 billion in productivity gains since FY12. Making progress on our aspirational goal will help us reach the US$1.8 billion in gains we’re targeting for FY17 and carry that momentum into the future. 

Diversity in all its forms also improves our workplaces. Firstly, by recruiting more widely, we have access to a broader pool of talent and can build a more skilled workforce.  Secondly, the terms and conditions needed to attract a broader range of people (like flexible working) increase the engagement of all employees. And thirdly, diverse teams are less susceptible to group-think and more likely to feel safe to speak up, bring their ideas and make better decisions. 

Becoming more inclusive will help BHP Billiton gather a more skilled and engaged workforce, helping us to grow and create more opportunities for all our people, regardless of gender. By ensuring our Company resembles the communities in which we operate, we should develop stronger relationships with them. The nature of our global footprint also means we can have a positive impact across a wide range of societies in the different countries where we operate, including beyond our sector. 

The aspiration to achieve gender balance by 2025 will be challenging, however we are committed to a cultural change that will enable us to be more inclusive of difference. This is a stake in the ground that, while ambitious, attempts to balance the need for change with the reality that a transformation like this in our industry will take time. It’s almost 2017, change is overdue and the prize enormous.

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