The tyre industry has traditionally been male dominated, with female workers most commonly seen in administration roles. Kal Tire is breaking down the barriers and hiring the best workers for the job, male or female. Salomae Haselgrove writes.
Kal Tire’s philosophy for equality in the workforce is simple, creating opportunity and fostering pathways into mining.
The company’s journey to a more equal workplace doesn’t involve quotas or a gendered hiring process, but it has made efforts to create an inclusive workplace with its training programs, career development support and investment in innovation to remove barriers.
The company has seen an increase in women applying for and gaining roles in Kal Tire’s locations around Australia, including Monique Dyer, who is based at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and Tie-Gan Smith, who works at a mine site in South Australia.
Kal Tire western region manager Dave Ryan says with more women starting their training with the company, word is spreading about the opportunities.
As a result, Ryan believes more women are seeing the tyre industry as a career option and Kal Tire as a potential employer.
“At Kal Tire, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. You’re not treated any differently and you go through all the same processes,” Ryan tells Australian Mining.
“We don’t target our advertising to specific diversity groups. We encourage people of all backgrounds to apply for positions. There has been a shift in the mining industry as a whole to attract more women into our workforce and we are enjoying the new ideas our female team members bring to Kal Tire.”
Ryan says team members like Dyer and Smith have been extremely efficient in their roles associated with tyre maintenance.
According to Ryan, Kal Tire has also experienced a lift in the attention to detail and general standards of work from other team members.
“Our female team members work hard, they get in and get their tasks done and their attention to detail means their work is very well done and it has helped lifted the standard for all team members,” Ryan explains.
It isn’t just work standards benefitting from more female team members at Kal Tire though; Ryan has noticed more appropriate behaviour around work sites from all team members.
While there has been a positive change in the behaviour of team members, both Dyer and Smith have made it clear they do not want to be treated differently to anybody else within the team and instead be treated simply as fellow workers.
“The feedback I’ve had from our female team members is they don’t want to be treated any differently to other workers,” Ryan says. “The women we do have in our teams have been accepted into their teams like a big family. Everyone looks out for one another and new team members feel like a part of the team really quickly.”
While the number of women in tyre fitting is on the rise, it is still considered unique by some of Kal Tire’s clients.
Any doubt they feel when Dyer or Smith arrive at a site is quickly abated after they see the standard of their work and the pride they take in it.
“Monique can travel five to six hours to remote mine sites to complete mobile tyre service call-outs,” Ryan explains.
“Some of our customers are surprised when they see her get out of the truck, but mostly they are very positive in saying it’s great to see females out on site.
“A few times we’ve had someone on-site ring our manager and ask if we’re sure they can do it, so we just say ‘watch her work, mate, she can do what the boys can do if not better’.”
Kal Tire aims to change this mindset for good, by not only preparing more women for careers in tyre fitting through the company’s traineeships, but also providing career pathways at Kal Tire to move into management positions.
“The more female team members we can start off in training roles, the more it spreads the word that tyre fitting is a good career opportunity and entry into the mining industry,” Ryan says.
“Some people worry about getting into such a physically demanding occupation and traditionally a male dominated industry so the more opportunities we can create and the more we innovate, the better for improving the perception about tyre fitting as a career choice for women.
“Once we can get more women up through the ranks as managers that know how to fit tyres, rather than just knowing management skills, we’re going to see a big shift and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Kal Tire has introduced numerous innovation tools to its operations and training programs, which have also helped to remove barriers to a career in tyre management, as well as increase safety. One example is its gravity assist system (GAS) that makes lifting and working with a 36-kilogram torque gun weightless.
The GAS provides an advantage for any Kal Tire team member as it helps to prevent injuries from the strain of heavy lifting.
Smith, a former horse breaker, is still fresh in her role with Kal Tire, having commenced her Certificate II in Automotive Tyre Servicing Technology five months ago.
In this short amount of time, she has gone from being a novice in fitting tyres to becoming a valued worker within the Kal Tire team.
“I came in with no knowledge at all on tyres,” she says. “I couldn’t even change a tyre if I got a flat on the side of the road in my car.”
Despite being the only female not in Kal Tire’s administration team on the mine site, Smith is enjoying the physical nature of the role and learning something new every day to complete her tasks to the best of her ability.
“It’s a job anyone can do as long as they’re physically up to it,” Smith says.
“It’s definitely a job a lot of women could look into. I’m really enjoying it and I feel as though with the training Kal Tire has given me, I execute my daily jobs knowledgably and to a high standard.”
Dyer surpassed the five-year mark as a tyre technician in November 2019, but it wasn’t the job she intended to finish up with.
“I literally accidentally applied for the wrong job,” she says. “I came out of school and wanted to get into an LV mechanic apprenticeship.
“The job title said LV technician and when I turned up to the interviews I noticed they were talking a lot about tyres. I figured out what I’d done and thought, ‘I’ll just give it a go,’ and if I still wanted to pursue mechanics later it’s a foot in the door.”
This lucky mistake turned out to be what Dyer describes as “one of the best careers I’ve gotten myself into.”
Dyer has thrived at Kal Tire. Growing into her role, she notes the company’s support in preparing its team members for promotions and continuing to learn every day.
“No two days are ever the same. I could be in the workshop one day and another I could be travelling somewhere 200 kilometres away to do a job,” she says.
Looking ahead, Dyer shares Kal Tire’s view of wanting to see more women in the industry and the company, particularly in leadership roles, which is something that could be on the horizon for Dyer herself in the future.
“I want to keep working to achieve everything I can on the floor in my role and look to pursue a leadership role in future,” she says.
“I would love to be able to train more females in the industry. It’s been such an incredible journey for me and it’s such a male-dominated field, it would be awesome to see more women in the field.”
This article also appears in the July issue of Australian Mining.