Management

Elaine He oversees Bloomberg Gadfly's data visualization work in Europe and also pursues her own columns combining business and markets coverage. Before joining Bloomberg, she was a graphics editor at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

When the world’s largest mining company says it wants to hire more women, surely that's a good thing right? Like all things, it depends.

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BHP Billiton said this week that it wants an equal number of men and women working for it by 2025. This would mean an extra 21,000 female staff and contractors. It's an honorable goal given that most diversity efforts concentrate on management. For example, 60 British financial firms have committed to a 30 percent target for women in senior positions in five years, while 13 have promised complete balance at the top.

Yet this is half the battle. It's not enough that women are hired in equal numbers, they must be paid fairly too. And fairly means equally. Across all industries, women make a fraction of what male counterparts earn (as the chart below on U.S. wages shows). Some argue that women tend to work in industries that pay less or they are soft negotiators. Nonsense. Whether it’s law, finance, manufacturing, education, hospitality, you name it, women are paid less for the same work. Mining is actually one of the highest paying jobs for women -- much, much better than finance and professional services -- but they still only earn 86 cents of the male dollar.

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That said, BHP might be on to something with its bold plan. When the Boston Globe newspaper analyzed the Trump and Clinton campaign teams in April, it found 28 percent of Trump’s staff were women and men earned 35 percent more; while women made up 53 percent of Clinton’s staff and men earned just 1 percent more. This might be the way to parity.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Elaine He in London at ehe36@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.net