Bronwyn Barnes – Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources 2015

ONE OFF THE WOOD: Winward Resources (ASX: WIN) executive chair Bronwyn Barnes emerged as a big winner from the recent second annual Women in Resources National Awards (WIRNA) hosted by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME).

Bronwyn walked away from the ceremony with the newly-bestowed title of Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources.

The award was no surprise for those who have known Bronwyn throughout her 15 year mining career, which has included roles at companies from BHP Billiton to emerging juniors in director, leadership and operational roles.

We were very pleased when she popped into The Roadhouse to allow us to bask in her glory.

Congratulations on winning the Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources Award. What does winning such an award mean to you?

For me the most exciting part about winning this award is the recognition of your peers.

I have been in the industry for over 17 years and have worked my way through a variety of operational, managerial and leadership roles.

To have my contribution to the industry and my achievements recognised means a lot and provides great endorsement for the contribution I have made.

Quite often we are so busy doing what we do we forget to celebrate – this has given me a great opportunity to do just that.

Do you think the presentation of such awards demonstrates the mining industry is getting serious about recognising the contribution women are- and have – made to the sector?

I think the industry has been serious for some time about attracting and retaining women.

The opportunity for us now is to create clear pathways for women to move into those senior leadership and director roles.

There are still far too few women in the C suite.

Awards such as these not only recognise the contribution that women have made but they also identify clear role models for other women who are either in the industry or considering entering into it and demonstrate pathways.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

You have been a strong presence and greatly respected in the industry for most of your career, because of your knowledge and ability, not your gender. Do you think you have had to work that much harder than your male counterparts to achieve that recognition?

Thank you – that is a wonderful thing to say.

I don’t think I have to work harder to achieve the recognition but I have had to work harder to create the opportunities to advance in the industry.

One of the hardest things I have found in my career has been making the connections and networks to support my progress.

Many senior roles are still sourced through networks and existing relationships rather than advertised.

In fact the only job I have got through an ad was my first job 22 years ago.

Networks and connections are critical. I was very fortunate to have worked for WMC Resources and made some fantastic professional networks there that are still in place today.

The great challenge for women in this industry is forming their own networks within a male dominated environment so they can be recognised for their skills.

A lot of the networking happens in what I would call ‘male environments’ – corporate hospitality at sporting events, quiet chats over lunch, a few drinks after work.

A lot of women do not get to participate in these environments for a number of reasons.

I think we need to understand this a little more and work out where women can best position themselves to network.

What would you say to any young women out there who might be wanting to forge a career in the mining industry?

With all things I believe the passion you bring to a situation is the most important factor for success.

There will always be difficult times in any career – and not necessarily because of your gender.

Resilience and perseverance are key, particularly in the challenging environment we have at the moment.

During the course of my career I have been made redundant three times – in hindsight these were fantastic opportunities for changes in career.

At times such as this my networks were key in accessing new opportunities and it is essential to be clear about what you can offer to an organisation.  

You have recently taken over the reins, as executive chair, at Windward Resources. How is that working for you?

I have been on the Board of Windward for 18 months and have been non-exec chair for nine of those months.

I stepped into the exec chair role three months ago and have been focused on leading a strategic review of the company’s assets and position.

Recent corporate activity amongst companies involved in the Fraser Range is changing the landscape and junior companies operating in the region need to be agile enough to recognise this change and respond accordingly.

I am enjoying the opportunity to lead this strategic review and develop a plan that seeks to realise the full value of our assets – both landholding and cash.

Windward’s Fraser Range project is in the country’s hottest exploration post code. Can you tell us how things are progressing?

With any junior explorer you need three things to come together to deliver success – cash, project opportunity and a great team.

Windward is in the extremely fortunate position of having a good amount of cash at bank, a great address in the Fraser Range and a strong board and executive leadership team focused on delivering value for shareholders.

Whilst market conditions are some of the toughest we have seen for some time I believe we have the three key ingredients critical to any company’s success.

Now all we need is some good old fashioned luck.

We are currently drilling and have a program in place for the next four months that is focused on understanding the value of our tenement package.

We should be in a position by the end of the year to make some key decisions around our next steps.