James Palmer is the Asset President of BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal (BMC) and New South Wales Energy Coal (NSWEC) and a new member of the Inclusion and Diversity Council. This is James' story.
For me, having a workforce that reflects the diversity of the society in which we live and work is not only good for our business but it’s also just the right thing to do. Value and values.
Throughout my early life and career, my experiences reflected society. I grew up with both parents working, the son of a maths teacher and an English teacher. I have a sister and brothers. I attended a co-ed school - there was only one school in Childers, regional Queensland! I also went to University with a gender balanced cohort enrolled in my Chemical Engineering Degree.
So, it wasn’t until I stepped onto a mine site in my early twenties that I realised my experience wasn’t the experience of everyone.
I am the husband of a wife who has always worked. Throughout the years we have moved around to develop each other’s careers, not just mine or not just hers.
Many people wouldn't know that I turned down a role with BHP when I first graduated. I was offered a job in Port Hedland, Western Australia, however my wife, who works in the health industry, was offered a great opportunity in Mt Isa, Queensland, so we ended up taking roles there to balance both our careers.
We've now moved a number of times, for one or both of our careers and family at different times, and the key to making this work was having the conversation that was needed at the time and always striving for balance. Life is a complex system!
I am also the father of a daughter and sons and as such I want the same opportunities for all of them.
I have seen firsthand, and it is reinforced in our employee survey data that more inclusive and diverse teams out perform in a number of safety measures, are more productive and are more engaged. These teams demonstrate that inclusion and diversity delivers value.
I do think that we’re moving in the right direction. On site at BMC and Mt Arthur Coal, as well as in the Brisbane office and across BHP, I'm seeing the attitudes and behaviours of an entrenched mining culture being brought to the surface and changing. We're keeping a diverse range of people in our business for longer, as well as attracting new people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds.
I believe the aspirational goal of gender balance by 2025, set by our CEO Andrew Mackenzie, has challenged mindsets and delivered the momentum we needed to set us on the right path. However it’s a joint effort when it comes to making this sustainable across all levels of the Company. Whether you’re in a leadership position or not, it takes all of us pulling together to make a real difference.
For now, we need to stop accepting excuses about where we are on the inclusion and diversity journey. We need to have more conversations with our people to understand what barriers exist and then how we can work together to break them down. I believe that together we can be the cause for the behaviour change our industry and the world needs – and have fun doing it!