Barriers to women entering and progressing in transport roles
The final report for the iMOVE project Government initiatives to support women in the transport sector and is available for download at the bottom of this article.
The project is the first of our new Sustainability suite of projects to be completed, and our project partners on this were the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, with the research conducted by Deakin University’s industry partnership program Wayfinder: Supply Chain Careers for Women.
The project sought to:
… identify the barriers to women entering and progressing within the transport sector, undertake an audit and evaluate initiatives at all levels of government that foster and support women in the transport sector, and assess any gaps identified in existing initiatives.
It looked to do this by breaking the project into two components:
- A literature review identifying the barriers to women entering and progressing within the transport sector, and success factors in the transport and other sectors.
- An audit of all initiatives at the Federal, State and Territory, local and industry level that foster or support women entering and progressing within the transport sector. The audit will include the development of case study exemplars.
The gender landscape
As at 2020, more than 530,000 Australians were employed in the major transport subsectors of road, rail, aviation and maritime. And while the percentage of women in that workforce in Australia has risen from 20.9% in 2018 to 27.4% in 2021, that remains a substantial gender gap. Internationally that average percentage is 17.3%, and while that puts Australia in a comparatively good light, the numbers still clearly indicate that we have a lot of work to do to redress the balance.
And this isn’t just about working on the balance, it’s also about improving the lot of those already working in the sector.
Women also often lack the career networks that can facilitate both recruitment and career progression in the sector. Through strong and long nurtured networks, men support and promote from within their peer network and there is subconscious bias in all industries to employ and promote ‘people like us’. The transport industry’s reputation as a ‘boys club’ is a deterrent for many women who have concerns about harassment and double standards as well as the safety issues associated with long hours away from home often in remote areas.
In addition to the issue of gender balance, the report also makes the observation that the sector is in the beginning stages of major changes. Not only is new technology is disrupting long-established work practices and skills, but increased online commerce and new consumer expectations are changing the way the sector works.
As a result of these changes there is right now a widening skills shortage. And while it could perhaps be argued that this could be a stereotype , soft skills, enabling humans and machines to be effective and collaborative colleagues, are a skill set that can advantage women, and indeed the sector.
Advantage is key in all of this, for both women and their opportunities, and for the sector to adapt and indeed grow.
Importantly, in ensuring Australia’s transport industry is able to attract and retain the workforce it requires to meet the shifting demands of a rapidly evolving workforce, the issue of gender diversity is best framed as one of inclusion.
Issues of work life balance, workplace safety and company values are as important to millennial men as to women and men are certainly part of the solution to female disadvantage. Passive resistance to gender equity is common and engaging men in meeting the challenge of addressing the disproportionate number of males in the industry is critical.
A framework for improvement
Download the report
Click the button below to download your copy of The barriers to women entering and progressing in transport roles: Final report.