Employees sharing a laugh


Empowered and engaged people are key to our success, but we recognise that the work environment in some parts of our business has not always supported this. As a result, we have launched a number of initiatives to evolve our culture, so our people feel safe, respected and included.  They are supported to be the best they can be, to use their knowledge and experience to achieve our aspirations together.

We are committed to an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves. We want our people to feel that all voices are heard, all cultures respected and that a variety of perspectives are not only welcome – they are essential to our success. We treat each other fairly and with dignity regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or anything else that makes us different. 

We also aim for a diverse workplace – not just because it is good for our business, but because it is the right thing to do. We are not where we want to be on gender diversity, and we have established targets to improve the number of women in our organisation, at all levels. 

We are committed to Indigenous peoples having a stronger voice across our business. We are one of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians, with more than 1,500 Indigenous employees and contractors working across our Australian business, but we recognise that we have more work to do to increase representation in professional and leadership roles. 

Creating career pathways for technical experts

In many organisations, career progression means taking on responsibility for leading teams. But through our RioExcel programme, we offer our technical specialists an alternative career path – one where they can focus on building and sharing their expertise.



RioExcel is open to all technical experts in our business, and guides career development planning, recognition, and a challenging and rewarding path to progress within our company. Experts can apply to join the programme, and applications are assessed against five criteria: technical expertise, commercial and strategic outcomes, contribution to community knowledge, professional recognition as a thought leader, and living our values.

Brendan, our Head of Technical Excellence and leader of the RioExcel programme, explains how the programme supports career growth:

“With RioExcel, we’re looking for technical leadership and influencing skills. It’s not just about doing the work, but about bringing the organisation along on the journey and being able to pass on your knowledge to the next generation. There’s a structured process to how to assess the RioExperts, and it’s a rigorous process. Similar to the way science advances through a peer review process, the applications go to a senior assessment panel that reviews the information, benchmarks it to others in the organisation and then recognises them, if they’re successful, as a RioExpert.

“I remember having a conversation with someone, she was a young engineer, a world expert in her niche field. She was getting to the point where she couldn’t see much room for advancement. She’d done all she could do. When she was recognised as a RioExpert – almost the next day the phone started ringing because people knew what she had to offer. Suddenly she realised her horizons were much more vast. Getting to be part of that, and creating that opportunity, it’s been such a rewarding experience for me.

“It’s also been so fantastic to see when people come to the realisation of what collectively they can achieve as a community – because they’re multidisciplinary, they join forces and can solve really massive problems that had previously felt unsolvable – when I see the lights go on for people and they see what they can achieve together? It’s incredible.”

Our values

Our values – care, courage and curiosity – guide how we work and how we treat each other.

  • Teamwork at IOC
    Care: for people, for the communities in which we operate and for our environment
    We act with care by prioritising the physical and emotional safety and wellbeing of those around us. We respect others, build trusting relationships and consider the impact of our actions. We look for ways to contribute to a better future for our people, communities and the planet.
  • Employee smiling at camera
    Courage: to try new things, speak up and do what’s right
    We act with courage by showing integrity, speaking up when something is not right and taking decisive action when needed. We are not afraid to try new things. We respond positively in difficult situations and demonstrate commitment to achieving shared goals.
  • Employee inspecting machinery
    Curiosity: to collaborate, learn and innovate
    We act with curiosity by inviting diverse ideas and collaborating to achieve more together than can be done alone. We are continuously learning, creatively looking for better and safer ways of doing things. We draw inspiration from others and the world around us.


Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees and contractors.

Our goal is zero fatalities: we want everyone to return home safely at the end of the day, every day. That means not only our employees, but also our suppliers and local communities. We work to keep them safe and healthy by managing risks, promoting a safety-first culture, focusing more and more on health and using automation to remove people from high-risk work. We also believe safety does not begin and end at work and have taken steps to stop violence against women, with industry-leading programmes in Australia and North America to end family and domestic violence.

2021 performance

  • Year in review
  • Year in numbers

Evolving our culture

In 2021, we launched our new strategy as well as our new values of care, courage and curiosity, which will reinforce the culture change that we are driving and enable greater performance. We recognise that embedding our values and evolving our culture will take time, but we are making important progress.

Within the mining industry, and across society as a whole, we see unacceptable behaviours such as bullying, sexual harassment and racism. To address this proactively within our own company, we commissioned expert and former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick to conduct an independent review of our workplace culture, as part of our Everyday Respect task force.

In 2021, we also took part in the Western Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into sexual harassment of women in the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) mining industry. We made our submission to the Inquiry in August and are absolutely committed to eradicating all forms of sexual harassment, racism and bullying in our workplace, wherever we operate globally.

This year, we updated our confidential reporting programme, myVoice, with a number of enhancements designed to make it easier for our people to voice concerns when something at work does not feel right. The myVoice programme will continue to evolve to reflect the feedback received through the Everyday Respect findings and recommendations. 

Read more about the Everyday Respect task force report >

In 2021, we also undertook two Group-wide employee engagement surveys to help us understand how our people feel about the company and our direction. In our latest survey in October, close to 27,000 employees completed the survey and provided over 62,000 comments. Results show that the new strategy was well-received, and our new values resonated for many who felt they have a stronger human connection and reflect what we want to be as a company.

However, our employee satisfaction (eSAT) score, which measures how happy people are working at Rio Tinto, has gone down from 73 to 71. This is the first decline since 2017, and is seen across most levels, geographies and parts of the business. This is consistent with what Glint, our survey provider and expert in engagement, is seeing across organisations. After a broad increase in eSAT during the first year of the pandemic, there has been a general decline across many industries and organisations as fatigue increases. This is a combination of increasing workload to cover absenteeism, additional pandemic related work and the isolation for those working from home leading to higher levels of employee burnout.

To help catalyse change, we rolled out a major leadership development programme to our top 115 leaders. Over the next two years, a further 400 of our senior leaders will go through the same programme. We are also investing in developing our frontline colleagues and we are focusing on more delegation and empowerment, as well as simplifying our governance processes. In 2022, we will also review our incentives and rewards to ensure they support and align with our desired culture, values and strategy.

We know that addressing these issues will, over time, contribute to a safer, more inclusive and respectful work environment. It will help improve wellbeing, increase collaboration, and help to attract and retain diverse people. Continuing to focus on our culture will remain a key priority for all leaders in 2022.

Building a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community 

In 2021, our workforce grew by 3,001 and we hired 7,895 people, of which 3,098 were contractors who became permanent Rio Tinto employees.

We know that having an inclusive and diverse workforce improves performance and we continue to focus on the representation of women across all levels. This year, we expanded our gender diversity targets beyond women in senior leadership to women at all levels and increased the representation of women in our workforce by 1.5%. Overall, we increased female representation from 20.1% to 21.6%, hiring 2,524 women, 32% of new hires. Gender diversity also improved among our senior leadership, up 1.3% to 27.4%. Also, for the first time in five years, our frontline operator female representation grew by 0.9%, from 14.2% to 15.1%.

Initiatives to increase the representation of women include the Women in Mining Forum at our Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operations in South Africa, sponsored by the site leadership team. Discussion forums were held between senior management and female employees at the site to foster dialogue and identify areas for improvement to break down gender bias and inequality. Our Gladstone leadership development pilot programme is another example from this year where we focused on building career pathways to develop the capability of our female talent in frontline leader roles. The programme was rolled out across the Boyne Smelters, Queensland Alumina and our Yarwun Refinery, and our plan is to deploy this programme across our Pacific Operations. We are also a Founding Member of the Champions of Change Coalition, a group established to elevate gender equality and in 2021 became founding members of the Includability network advocating for people with disabilities.

Our graduate programme is one avenue where we can make sure our leaders of tomorrow reflect the diversity of our community. For our 2021 intake, 58% of the graduates are female and 35% from nationalities where we are building new businesses. In Australia, 10% of the graduate intake and 15% of our vacation student programme are Indigenous, up from 8% in 2020. We are also investing in the development of our graduates through our new graduate development programme. Due to COVID-19, this programme is now a two-year virtual journey that ensures that all graduates, regardless of where they are located, have access to the same curriculum. It prepares graduates to be future leaders with experiences including the future of work and our role in society. In 2021, the programme received an award for Innovation through the Human Resources Canada Awards.

We are committed to Indigenous peoples having a stronger voice across our business. We are one of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians, with more than 1,500 Indigenous employees and contractors working across our Australian business, but we recognise that we have more work to do to increase representation in professional and leadership roles. We are investing $50 million over five years to attract, retain and grow Indigenous professionals and leaders in Australia, and we have increased the number of Australian Indigenous leaders in our business five-fold since November 2020. We have also developed a national cultural competence programme which was launched in 2021 and will continue to be delivered to our leaders across our business in 2022.

Ensuring equality through pay equity 

Equity is intrinsically linked to our commitment to inclusion and diversity. Ensuring that employees with similar skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience, and performance are paid equally for the same or comparable work remains a core focus. Our gender pay gap reporting consists of two metrics:

  • Our equal pay gap, the primary lens we use when assessing gender pay, measures the extent to which women and men employed by our company in the same location and performing work of equal value receive the same pay. In 2021, we further reduced our gender pay gap compared to 2020, which is less than 1.5% in favour of males.
  • Gender pay is a measure of the difference between average earnings of women and men across the Group (excluding incentive pay), regardless of role, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. In 2021, our gender pay gap is unchanged with just over 1% in favour of women. Multiple factors impact this high-level indicator, including our approach to promoting equity, reflecting higher increases in average earnings for women and an increase in the number of women in higher-paying roles. During the year, we increased our workforce by around 7% which included a significant proportion of male hires in lower paying roles within the operational workforce which contributed to the overall outcome.

Other activities in 2021:

  •  Launched the development of the Rio Tinto Safe Production System (RTSPS) to support our ambition of becoming the best operator. RTSPS empowers our frontline employees, simplifies what we do, frees our people to innovate and brings consistency to our operations. We began testing the model at five sites in 2021: at our copper concentrator at Kennecott, Yandicoogina Fixed Plant, and drill and blast at West Angelas in the Pilbara, the casthouse system at Grande Baie in the Saguenay, and the concentrator at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC).
  • Launched a programme to streamline processes and remove bureaucracy to further empower our people. As an example, we are ensuring authority is delegated to the appropriate level and have completed improvements to our workflows, representing approximately 16,750 approvals per annum and returning almost 2,800 hours per annum to our leaders.
  • Expanded our technical expertise through the RioExcel programme with 36 people formally recognised as technical RioExperts, bringing our total number to 109. Of these, 18% are women and our total Rio Expert population represents 14 technical disciplines across six countries.
  • Partnered with Mindgym to conduct 15 virtual learning sessions for over 500 people globally (in English and French) about inclusion, being a better ally and creating a sense of belonging.
  • Continued to encourage skills development through LinkedIn Learning. Since its launch in May 2020, more than 17,000 of our colleagues have registered for the platform and completed more than 16,200 courses and 24,500 hours of learning.
  • Increased the employee contribution caps in our Global Employee Share Plan, myShare, further increasing the attractiveness of the programme. The number of employees who hold Rio Tinto shares through myShare increased by 14% this year – to more than 25,000 employees.
  • Researched our global mobile talent to understand the impact of the pandemic on how people view international assignments and what support they need to thrive. Outcomes from this research will inform the shape of the mobility programme to ensure we provide the right support and growth opportunities.
  • Established a partnership with the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales to deliver the Rio Tinto Emerging Indigenous Executive Leaders Programme (EIELP) to 20 Indigenous leaders. This programme focuses on developing executive-ready Indigenous future leaders who will have an influential role in shaping the future of our business.
  • Completed the first round of the Indigenous two-way mentoring programme. We matched 31 of our Indigenous employees with senior leaders across our Australia businesses. We have now launched round two of this programme, with 45 Indigenous employees participating.


  • Two-point decrease in employee satisfaction score (eSAT*) 

*eSAT (employee satisfaction) is a measure of how happy an employee is to work at Rio Tinto. It is calculated by averaging the responses on a 1-7 scale and expressing this out of 100.

Women at Rio Tinto


Total workforce


Board of Directors


Executive Committee


Senior leadership


Graduate intake


Frontline operators

2021 figures. Total workforce refers to managed operations.

$50 million to attract, retain and support the development of Indigenous employees across Australia

We are:

  • Changing our hiring practices by focusing on an Indigenous candidate’s potential, not their mining experience.
  • Introducing a cultural onboarding programme to ensure leaders have the skills they need to support Indigenous employees.
  • Pairing Indigenous employees with senior leaders and providing career coaching for employees while also developing leaders’ cultural competence.
  • Supporting employees’ growth and development by identifying skill gaps and working with each employee to create a career plan, including further education.
  • Growing cultural competency through cultural awareness training, and where possible, cultural immersion opportunities on Country or through working directly with Indigenous businesses and organisations.

Working at Rio Tinto

We produced the world's first certified responsible aluminium. We were the first mining company to embrace Indigenous peoples' land rights in Australia. And we created one of the world's biggest robots – and maybe one of the smallest. But we always want to do more.

Working at Rio Tinto means touching people’s lives: from exploring new materials to finding ways to tackle climate change. We value curiosity, creativity, innovation and hard work. We work in some of the most remote, beautiful places in the world – like the Northwest Territories in Canada and Weipa in Far North Queensland, Australia – as well as in major metropolitan hubs like Montreal, Perth, Brisbane and Singapore.

We know that work is changing and we must change too. We partner with governments and institutions to ensure that our people and communities have the skills they need throughout their careers.

In 2021, we announced a A$2.8 million, three-year partnership with Australian-owned “EdTech” business, The Careers Department, to extend their digital careers programme to more students throughout Australia. The Careers Department’s online programme provides a range of tools to help students make informed careers choices – from profiling to help students match their values and preferences with career options, to virtual tours that give a behind-the-scenes look at different jobs. The programme also helps students access training and development and virtual or in-person work experience opportunities too.

In 2019 we announced the Future Minds Accelerator programme, a A$10 million, four-year partnership focusing on skills for the digital future with leaders in Australia’s education and innovation sectors, including leading start-up accelerator BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services. In 2020, the programme engaged 100,000 Australian children, focusing on skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and automation. In addition, it provided training and professional development opportunities for 2,700 teachers and engaged more than 1,000 schools, helping drive interest in digital skills among students. The programme also helped the participating start-ups grow their businesses, creating 32 new jobs.

And in Western Australia, high school students are participating in the Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations programme, the first nationally recognised automation qualification in Australia, which we launched in partnership with South Metropolitan TAFE (a technical and further education institution). The course, which launched in 2019, is designed to provide participants with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the resources industry of the future.