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Interviewing Gemma McDonald, Manager BI & Analytics at Newcrest Mining

Globe 24-7’s APAC Regional Manager Sabet van der Westhuizen caught up with Gemma McDonald – Manager of Business Improvement & Analytics at Newcrest to share her unique experience in the mining industry, and offer advice and insights to females who may be interested in a career in this exciting industry.


1. Sabet -What do you think can be done in the industry to attract and promote women in mining, and what do you believe mining organisations could do to improve women’s retention rates?

Gemma: The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a silver living for primary carers, most of whom are women, by testing boundaries and challenging views around the need to be in the office every day for set hours. Before 2020, the mining industry was making slow progress in flexible working arrangements; this has now been catapulted forward due to the pandemic and brings with it a greater opportunity to retain women who require flexibility to stay in the industry.


2. Sabet – Are there any common obstacles or barriers to success you have experienced so far in your career in mining?

Gemma: If the mining industry were a personality trait, it would be Bold. I feel this presents obstacles for anyone who doesn’t work effectively with that approach. Greater diversity levels and a greater level of technology-focused skills bring a more varied approach which I think is very positive for the industry and will present fewer obstacles for those joining the industry.


3. Sabet – Where would you like to see the mining industry on this front moving into the next decade?

Gemma: The adage ‘you can’t be what you can’t see is pertinent here. We need to have a cross-section of representation, particularly in the most senior roles of mining companies, to role model what a diverse, effective mining business can achieve.


4. Sabet – What advice would you give a woman wanting to start her career in the mining industry?

Gemma: If you know anyone who works in the industry, chat to them about the available roles. Most people would be surprised about the variety of roles in the industry, both site and corporate based – we’re not all truck drivers, although that is the assumption that people always seem to make! If you don’t know anyone, see if you can find someone in your area of interest on LinkedIn and approach them. Just put some context around why you are interested in connecting with them.


5.Sabet- In your opinion, what do you think are the biggest challenges women in the mining industry face?

Gemma: Many roles in the industry require remote work and travel, demography shows that women perform the majority of caregiving roles, and this can be an unworkable situation for some women. Greater access to parental leave for non-birth parents and slowly changing societal norms means more women can contemplate taking on roles requiring remote work or lots of travel. Still, everyone can play their part in helping this change more rapidly by embracing different setups for workers.


6. Sabet- What do you find stimulating about your job in the industry?

Gemma: The variety of work and the people you will meet is absolutely the best part for me. It’s rare to work in an environment with such varied skilled professionals all in one team, and the things you can learn from others is as stimulating as what you can give back.


7. Sabet -In your opinion, why do you think women should have greater representation in higher roles in the mining industry?

Gemma: There is objective research that shows that a greater percentage of women in executive positions results in a moderated risk profile for companies and higher profits. Notionally though, we all benefit from a society where there are balance and diversity. To this end, there should be a fair representation of women in all level of an organisation.


8. Sabet -How did you get into the mining industry, tell us about your personal journey?

Gemma: Graduating with a Commerce degree, I knew I wanted to work in an area separate from the traditional accounting firms. It was a busy time in the industry, and I was accepted into the Xstrata (now Glencore) graduate program in Mt Isa. I haven’t looked back since, and have worked on multiple sites, in several countries and in corporate office roles. I moved from finance-focused roles to broader Commercial roles encompassing procurement, contracts, IT, warehousing, site services and risk management. This opened my eyes to the many roles required to support operations, and I have developed a skill base in procurement and, most recently, applying all my knowledge in an operational business improvement and analytics role.


9. Sabet -What advice do you have for younger females wanting to enter the mining industry?

Gemma: Be prepared to go where the foundation of the business is – the sites! The females that I have seen be the most successful aren’t afraid to move somewhere out of the ordinary. You will find you will have the most amazing experiences and make lifelong friendships with people whom you will never find in the city. It can be tough to get a foot in the door in a city or more metropolitan area, but if you can be open to moving to a remote region, it will provide a great foundation for a career in the industry.


10. Sabet – Tell us about your plans for your new role at Newcrest? What do you aim to achieve in this role?

Gemma: Lihir is an extraordinary site, with complexity and an orebody that is world-class. My aim in the role of business improvement and analytics manager is to facilitate meaningful improvements by combining my skills and experience with delivery focused leadership. Only a week in I can see the opportunities to contribute value are everywhere, so I am looking forward to integrating myself into the operation and working with others to achieve meaningful site results.


11. Sabet – Having women in executive positions is not enough – what can senior leaders take to ensure women are ‘heard’ within the business?

Gemma: I think this can be achieved by raising the business’s level of consciousness about hearing from a diverse audience, including women. Women also need to be prepared to stand up to be heard, and it is still relatively new that women are represented in all roles in the industry, and it has to be accepted that there may be a ‘paving of new ground’ that needs to be embraced.


12. Sabet – What can men be doing to support women’s retention and promotion within businesses and within the industry?

Gemma: It’s a conscious decision to look outside our own lens of experience and skills and find the best fit for the business. All managers can ensure that when hiring, developing succession plans and promoting by referencing a broader lens of experience it considers women as part of the view.



13. Sabet – What can be done at the individual level to promote women’s participation and career growth in the mining industry? For example, mentoring programs, networking-based events, etc.

Gemma: There are several mining professional groups joinable via LinkedIn specifically addressing women’s participation in the industry, they offer a range of growth and development focused events and due to COVID-19, are now often hosted digitally. A barrier I encountered early in my career to participate in meaningful conversation for networking was the physical distance from a mine site to a capital city where events were often hosted. The rise of digital goes some of the ways toward enabling virtual networking, although nothing ever replaces real face to face time if you can make it work. As a more experienced professional in the industry, I am conscious of ensuring I am available to provide women on the site with a safe space to discuss challenges they may have and agitating at a management level to create change as required. I deliberately share aspects of my life that paint a picture about balancing personal life with career, and support men also sharing aspects of home and family life as this all supports the normalisation of women having strong careers and having supportive environments to achieve a balance with personal life.


14. Sabet – What are organisations missing? Is a diversity policy and gender quota enough?

Gemma: Policy and quotas will only ever address part of true inclusion and diversity, the answer lies in a critical mass of representation and change) and consistency. When there is very little representation from minority groups in businesses the impetus for change never gets reached, with greater levels of representation of women and minority groups and consistent promotion of this at all levels of a business it drives acceptance of a new normal.




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