Despite women occupying over 45% of all jobs in the EU, the percentage of women working in the transport sector is substantially less with numbers as low as 13% of the jobs in the road transport sector for example currently occupied by females. These numbers indicate the extent of the challenge that the transport sector faces in attracting more women to the many skilled and less skilled positions available despite the number of benefits that women bring to the workplace.
So why is the transport sector so male dominated?
There are many barriers to women who might be considering the transport sector as a possible future profession. They include:
- Gender stereotypes
- Gender discrimination
- Company / Working culture
- Work – life balance
- Personal safety and exposure to violent behaviour
- Sexual harassment
- Health and hygiene
- Wage gap
- Training and career development
- Job perception
There is obviously debate about how “real” these barriers are and how often women will come up against them. Women currently employed in the transport sector may give glowing reviews about their own personal experiences, but the numbers indicate that these barriers are real and could be affecting the ability of the sector to compete if it cannot overcome them and begin to attract more women to the profession. In the road haulage sector for example it is generally accepted that there is a significant lack of drivers, especially good drivers that can be relied upon. So few women ever apply for these jobs though which means that the onus is on the sector to become more attractive for women given the significant benefits that they bring to the workplace.
The benefits of a mixed work force
By attracting more women, the sector will no doubt:
- Improve vacancy coverage, filling positions quicker due to the increased number of candidates.
- Attract more and better talent by making the sector more attractive to both men and women.
- Increase worker retention
- Improve its public image by better reflecting the society we live in.
- Increase client satisfaction given that women tend to handle better customer care issues.
- Improve decision making, creativity and innovation due to increased levels of diversity in the work place.
- Improve the workplace by helping to create a better team spirit.
- Improve the employee satisfaction overall as teams which include women are more open and inclusive.
- Improve safety as women have less accidents in general.
Measures to help get women into transport
Companies and the sector at large have an opportunity to modernise and to attract larger numbers of women into their ranks. In order to do this, the sector must drive gender awareness as a priority to ensure that any cultures of male dominance are removed and the traditional stereotypes of man & van are dismantled. A more robust and effective recruitment, training and career development policy must be developed in businesses and organisations where low numbers of women are employed. Furthermore, women must feel that health and safety are guaranteed in the workplace for them to consider seriously transport as a potential career both for them and their daughters. Together these measures will allow women to see that a strong work-life balance can be achieved and that both they and the sector can enjoy the benefits of working together.