More needed to encourage female participation

Industry groups, commercial businesses and government regulators are rightly espousing the need for higher participation rates of women in industries that have historically been dominated by men.

The transport industry is one sector traditionally associated with men in terms of board and executive management representation, through to very few female drivers and operators.

In 2016, the VTA will be doing its part to encourage members and industry participants to more actively recruit women, and develop policies and strategies that attract women to our industry.

We applaud similar efforts by our industry peers in this regard, and support the cultural change needed within some transport companies to make them places where women want to work.

Women have a long and valued association with the transport industry, possibly due to many of our larger and successful operators – as well as smaller ones – originating as family-owned and operated companies.

To be successful, companies like those often relied on help from the whole family, which led to women occupying positions in accounting, finance and customer relations. Indeed, this practice remains today, especially among smaller operators and contractors who cannot afford exposure to large headcounts and associated wage liabilities. 

While this arrangement works well for some operators, we must make a better effort to attract women to our industry, and appropriately recognise their experience and qualifications once there.

We should do this not just to tick an arbitrary equal opportunity box, or because one group or another says we should. We should do this because it makes good business sense, with women proven to be successful and highly capable and qualified in any number of relevant roles.

On any analysis of statistics about women in transport, the only conclusion we can reach is that more needs to be done to increase participation rates and improve female representation in senior roles:

Women occupy 22 per cent, or just one in five transport, postal and warehousing positions and fewer than nine per cent, or one in 10 transport, postal and warehousing CEO positions , with only slightly more (12 per cent) on transport company boards . Of industries reported by the ASX in 2013, transport companies ranked 14 out of 20 with women comprising just 14 per cent of directorships ; and Men are four times as likely as women to occupy a management position.

Contrasting this, other research  demonstrates that, compared with men, women show better leadership competencies across a number of indicators, such as taking initiative displaying honesty and integrity, driving effort for results, building relationships and self-development.

These findings are powerful validators of the work that remains to be done to improve female participation rates in our industry, as well as the demonstrable results women can produce for employers.

Freight operators must ask themselves what they can do to improve female representation in their workplace. This process should begin with a review of policies and procedures, and establishing benchmarks around why women might not even want to work there.

The culture of some operators must also develop, evolve and improve to have better appeal among women. This extends to improving basic workplace standards around language, respect and treatment – the harsh reality is that, for some operators, it is men who need to change.

Retaining women is as important as attracting them, which is why investing in female employees through education and training that will help them to succeed is vital. Flexible hours, fair and equitable remuneration, and career development and mentoring programs are tools operators should consider to close the participation gap.

These and other issues will be addressed at the VTA’s Women’s Lunch at the Melbourne Zoo on Friday, 18 March. The event will feature addresses from a range of successful women, including Victorian Minister for Local Government and Industrial Relations, the Hon Natalie Hutchins. Contact the VTA on 03 9646 8590 for further information.

Ours is a vital industry sector that can only benefit from higher representation of women and I look forward to working with women and men to help make it a reality.


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013
2 Women in the Supply Chain, 2010 & 2014
3 Women on Boards, 2013
4 Women in the Supply Chain, 2014
5  Zenger Folkman, 2014

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