An image of a tough muscular macho man who does a lot of yelling and cussing tends to come to mind when one thinks of FIFO workers in mining, given that FIFO is a very male dominated environment, with a strong “testosterone culture”.
However, in recent years there are many more women that are choosing the FIFO life when working in mining, and contrary to popular beliefs many of these women are very happy working in FIFO.
Today women are working in mining as geologists, engineers, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, electricians, welders and pretty much all roles that some years back were primarily dominated by men. Women also fill many administrative roles in camps, as well such as cooking, cleaning and service manager roles in FIFO.
The FIFO world can be tough for all those working in it, and this can be especially difficult for women. Some women working in a male dominated environment can find things very challenging especially in FIFO, where they are not only working in a predominantly male orientated environment, but also living for a large portion of the year in a male dominated environment.
Some women in FIFO can feel that having so few female colleagues available to create a support structure around them can be challenging. They can also find the lack of privacy, as well as trying to fit into the masculine culture hard.
Being the focus of attention in a male dominated environment can be hard, and there are women that are subjected to harassment and discrimination. However this happens infrequently, and many women working in FIFO report that they are treated very respectfully and that harassment is really not the norm.
There are women who also feel they must prove themselves to their male colleagues, and get frustrated that even though they have the same tickets and are just as qualified that they can be made to feel less qualified, and that some men still seem to think that certain jobs “are not for women”. However, many women find that if they can have a tough skin and prove themselves that these assumptions fall by the wayside.
When it comes to the FIFO life in mining, many women thrive and it was reported some years back that women FIFO workers enjoyed better general health and mental health, and a more positive lifestyle than many of the men working in FIFO.
The feedback from many women in FIFO is that yes missing birthdays or family events can be hard, but on the flipside getting a full 6 days off every fortnight can also be very appealing.
In a FIFO role there is somebody there who can manage your workload while you are gone, whereas in a normal non FIFO role if any issues come up that need immediate attention, it can mean your 8-hour day can suddenly become a lot longer, and your weekend non existent.
Relationships can suffer with the time apart, created by the FIFO life, for both men and women, but for some they find that having some time apart can strengthen their relationships and that they find that the time spent together is quality time. Many women also feel that blaming FIFO for destroying marriages and relationships is just a “cop-out” and that many working in FIFO do not feel that relationships are suffering terribly because of FIFO, and that the relationships that fail, may have failed anyway, regardless as to whether involved in a FIFO job or not.
Financially the FIFO life can be a win win situation as well. There is no doubt that you make a lot of money in any of the many jobs involving mine site living. The added advantage of the FIFO life is while on site, you don’t go out, you don’t buy groceries and there is nothing really to spend your money on, so you can save.
It is important to remember not just for women but for men as well that working in FIFO is a lifestyle choice, and it is not for everybody, however for many it can prove to be a great lifestyle choice for both men and women.