Fostering a safe and inclusive workplace environment is important in any company, but Weir Minerals has taken on the task with particular gusto.

Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic was a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone if that job opportunity came when your state was closed off from the rest of the world.

But when Kristen Walsh was offered the position of regional managing director, Asia Pacific at Weir Minerals, she took it all in her stride.

“For the first three or four months of my role, the borders were closed in Western Australia,” she told Australian Mining. “So I took that as an opportunity to visit customer sites to listen and learn about customer challenges.”

These early days at customer sites set the tone of Walsh’s leadership at Weir Minerals.

“I learnt a lot about the challenges that each customer faces, and then I got to observe how our team interacts with our customers to solve problems,” Walsh said.

“Seeing that, and also observing the Weir culture of high performance, inclusive and wellbeing that matches our brand promise, was really exciting.

“Even when I was first applying for the role, I found the Weir values strongly resonated with me and that has only strengthened since coming aboard.

“Weir Minerals is focused on providing an inclusive employee environment that is fundamental to delivering our strong customer value proposition.

“I’m an engineer at heart and I have a strong interest in innovation, and I really feel as though that is what we do at Weir Minerals every day. We ask ourselves how we can add value to our customers and create a workplace culture that is inspiring for employees.”

A key initiative for Walsh has been to champion regional participation in the global Weir Women’s Network (WWN).

An affinity group dedicated to the attraction, retention and continued development of women in Weir, the WWN is open to all women at the company, and their allies, who are devoted to championing the work of the network.

First launched in the US, the WWN has since expanded to chapters all over the world.

“When I joined Weir Minerals, we didn’t have an active Australian chapter of the WWN,” Walsh said.

“A strong focus on gender equity is really important to me, so I was keen to figure out how best to drive visible  leadership at Weir.

“One of the things we do at Weir Minerals is we set targets to increase our female representation, and in 2022 we increased our representation from 14 per cent to 16 per cent and we’re on a journey to increase that further.

“The WWN is one of our formal initiatives we have undertaken to increase our representation. Today we have established chapters in Australia, India and Malaysia.”

An important aspect of the WWN is ensuring that men are involved as allies.

“Men attending WWN meetings and hearing the stories and experiences of women is incredibly important,” Walsh said.

“It’s also important that men are encouraged and supported to model a good work–life balance so that we can all equally share the responsibilities of work and life.”

Walsh said that she was proud of the success of the WWN expansion.

“When you’re working in an organisation that has a low representation of females, you’re often the only female in the room,” she said. “And sometimes you may not necessarily feel very welcome at the table.

“For me, it’s important to ensure there are visible women leaders and allies in the workforce that are proactively creating networks of support.

“If there is a career path that someone is interested in, they’re more likely to go into it if they can see people like themselves succeeding in it.”

Weir Minerals is also a strong supporter of the Women in Industry awards and is sponsoring the Excellence in Mining award at this year’s ceremony.

The Women in Industry Awards recognise outstanding women from across a range of industrials sectors; for example, those who work in mining, transport, manufacturing, engineering, logistics, bulk handling, waste management, rail and construction and infrastructure – all sectors that are traditionally male-dominated.

The awards are an opportunity to recognise the women who are driving change in industry, and in doing so breaking down barriers and creating new possibilities for the next generation.

The Excellence in Mining award recognises an individual who has made a positive contribution to one of the many facets of the mining industry, and Weir Minerals couldn’t be happier to sponsor it.

“I feel really proud of the company being a sponsor,” Walsh said. “And I think that the Women in Industry Awards is such a great opportunity to tell stories that are inspiring to future generations.

“I always feel inspired hearing the stories of how women have got to be where they are and achieved what they have.

“It’s for that very reason that I believe that awards like the Women in Industry are so important, to acknowledge and celebrate the journey that people have been on to get where they are.”

Weir Minerals graduates Francesca de Luca (left) and Jasmine Sclosa (right) at Weir Minerals’ facility in Artarmon, Sydney.

One of Weir Minerals’ primary goals is to be an inclusive workplace, and the company is well on its way.

“We want our workforce to represent the community in which we live,” Walsh said. “I think there is a tremendous amount of work to do around education and understanding.

“What we must keep in mind is that we’re on this journey together to try to build a common set of expectations of respect and inclusion at work.”

This article originally appeared on Weir Minerals.

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