Celebrating women in transport

By - Talent in Logistics Journal

Celebrating women in transport

At the moment women make up 47 per cent of the UK workforce. Yet, women remain underrepresented in the transport sector accounting for only 20 per cent of workers.

Transport and logistics sector is still perceived as a male-dominated profession. This is partly due to gender stereotyping - women do not see themselves in roles traditionally perceived as being men only and employers do not perceive women as suitable for specific jobs. The low numbers of women working in the sector means there are not enough visible role models to challenge and address these perceptions.

There are also other challenges that are common across business in general. Research published by the Government Equalities Office last October found that long hour working cultures, presentism and the stigmatisation of flexible working add up to penalties for women in terms of wage growth, training opportunities and progression. On top of this, women still carry most of the responsibility for the majority of unpaid work at home.

There is a perception that women suffer a natural penalty associated with parenthood. However, the research highlights that even when women have been in continuous full-time employment, have had no children, do not want any and have the same personality as a man, they still end up 8 per cent behind men on salary, ten years after starting their careers. This indicates that simply being a woman is a disadvantage in the workplace, a finding that is difficult to ignore.

Ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day, a new report from the UN Development Programme found that almost nine out of ten people are biased against women and those biases are on a global scale.

A further issue in transport and logistics is that our workplaces are simply not designed with women in mind; a lack of provision in hygiene facilities, gender-specific uniforms and personal protective equipment are all barriers to full participation in our sector’s workforce.

There are also concerns about safety, bullying and sexual harassment. The Equalities Office research found that it is common to see a "resigned acceptance" that "a woman-hostile culture was a price worth paying for working in a predominantly male environment".

So there are significant challenges and barriers for women in the transport and logistics sector but the spark of hope is the companies that are being bold and committing to changing both the perception of the industry and the internal practices and policies that act as barriers to attraction and retention.

We have seen good to great practice in our partner organisations including TfL, WSP, Mott MacDonald, Eurovia, Brighton & Hove Buses, HCT Group, TXM Recruit.

Policies and practices that companies are implementing include: 

  • Reviewing recruitment practices and campaigns to address imagery, gendered language and messaging including specific campaigns to target women like this one from Brighton & Hove Buses and this one from Eurovia.

  • Creating an environment where women can succeed by implementing workplace policies that are flexible for everyone, something we have seen clearly demonstrated at Mott MacDonald.

  • Mentoring, coaching and sponsoring programmes, see the Our Time Toolkit for some great examples.

  • Promoting internal and external support networks, TfL leads the way in this regard with staff networks covering a wide range of needs including Women in Tech.

The mission of Women in Transport

Women in Transport is a not-for-profit organization that empowers women to maximise their potential. The network provides exclusive access to an extensive events programme, our Advance Mentoring Programme and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport.

Since 2005 when Women in Transport was established, our membership has grown to over 500 with a social community of more than 14,000 users across Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Originating in London, we set up a North East hub in January 2019 and will be launching in the North West in 2020.

As a non-profit, all our revenue contributes to supporting our activities with the mission of advancing women working in the transport sector. We work collaboratively with industry partners and other networks across the UK. Our next major project is to produce a policy paper highlighting best practice and providing a snapshot of what it is like to be a woman in the transport industry in 2020.

If you’re an organisation looking to make a difference then it’s worth checking out our 12 ways to promote gender balance blog which draws on research from the Mineta Transportation Institute.

We have a great sector with incredible opportunities and a diversity of career options for anyone, no matter their background.

Getting that message out to a wider audience and attracting more talent to the sector should concern us all and will make our workforce stronger and more resilient. At Women in Transport, we believe that collaborating as a sector, sharing best practice, understanding what is and, importantly, what isn’t working is essential to attracting, progressing and retaining talent in transport and logistics.

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