The boss of WA's most advanced uranium mining company has given an insight into "deep, complex and ingrained" gender bias that exists in the industry, and which results in some women opting out of senior roles.
Toro Energy managing director Vanessa Guthrie said the mining industry was a leader in gender equity in employment but there was still a "long way to go".
Dr Guthrie told the WA Annual Resources Overview yesterday she had experienced negative bias firsthand, such as when travelling to investor roadshows with her male chief financial officer.
"Without exception when I walk in the room, the men in the room put their hand out to shake hands first with the men," she said.
"And then they turn to me, almost as if, 'What are you here for?'"
Dr Guthrie said the behaviour was very "subtle, intuitive and subconscious" but it sometimes sent signals to women in executive roles that they were not welcome.
"We as women see the culture and behaviour as you go further up the scale into executive roles, and sometimes don't like seeing what we see in the behaviour so we opt out. Many women self-select out."
Alcoa chairman Alan Cransberg said he and his counterparts on the panel hoped to drive change through a newly established CEOs for Gender Equity group.
"We're going to take a lot higher profile about making sure companies and the community understand this has to change," he said.
About 20 per cent of employees in the mining industry are female.