Women Miners: ‘We’re in like a virus and we don’t mind the work either’

Published 2009

Publication Type: Murray, Georgina, Peetz, David Robert

Author(s): Murray, Georgina; Peetz, David Robert

In mining, women constitute what Kanter (1977) calls a ‘token’ group, representing only a small proportion of workers. In the 1970s and 1980s many were originally recruited for corporate publicity purposes. Now they work on trucks, draglines, water trucks, scrappers, augurs, excavators, belly dumpers, graders and power shovels, but within a masculinist culture. Our qualitative project in the Queensland coal mines reveals problems, including harassment from supervisors and colleagues, that some have faced. Women’s interpretation of the reasons for these difficulties, the impact of visibility on expectations of women, their involvement with the union and the role of ‘critical mass’ and ‘critical actors’ in taking actions that advance the interests of women miners, are reviewed. Without access to collective resources or supportive structures, individual actions are problematic and the position of ‘token’ women is tenuous.

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