The transport industry has come a long way, yet it will be no surprise to anyone that there’s still a significant gap when it comes to gender representation.
With women only making up 16.9 per cent of transport roles in Australia, there’s a lot of room for change. The biggest gap is a lack of understanding about what a role in this sector looks like. For most women, when they think of transport, they think of truck drivers. It makes sense – as the ones out on the roads, they are the visible face of the trucking industry. It’s definitely one area of opportunity for women, with current stats showing only a miniscule percentage of heavy vehicle drivers are female.
Behind-the-scenes, there are so many other roles that provide an exciting and rewarding career - it’s time for the industry to start promoting all the different opportunities to encourage a more diverse workforce across the board.
Building awareness for ‘behind-the-scenes’ jobs in Australia’s transport industry
For most of us in the transport sector, we either fell into it or were born into it. I’m part of that second group – after 15 years in fashion retail, I ended up in transport because it’s my family business, and now I absolutely love it.
The transport industry is vital, underpinning so many other sectors that contribute to our economy. If it wasn’t for transport and warehousing, we wouldn’t have mining or retail. We wouldn’t even have the milk for our tea or coffee every day. To work in such a crucial industry is incredibly fulfilling, whether you specialise in IT, marketing, operations, PR, accounting or a myriad of other roles. It’s also a chance to build a long, successful career. While you might start out at the front desk of a small rural transport company, one day you could be running logistics for a multi-national corporation in Australia or overseas.
Unfortunately, as an industry we haven’t done a great job of promoting the different roles and departments. This needs to start at a school level. For example, Taylor’s Removals is part of the GenR8 program, which aims to attract, recruit and retain young people in the transport, logistics and supply chain industries. We invite students to do a 20-day work experience placement with us, where we share the different roles, from truck driving to administration. For young women, this plants the seed that while it’s currently a male-dominated industry, there are plenty of opportunities available.
Taking a step into the future
Transport is an industry of huge growth. You only have to look at the way companies are changing today to get a glimpse of an exciting future. Queensland residents will soon have groceries delivered by drone, which not only indicates the changing delivery landscape, but will create a range of new jobs, like drone pilots. Retail giants are turning to artificial intelligence and automation to streamline warehousing and implement data-driven processes. They’ll need a new generation of smart data scientists, operations professionals and IT staff to turn these plans into action. Who would have thought, even a decade ago, that we’d be this close to driverless cars on our roads? Women can be at the forefront of all this change.
The development, foresight and tech to create the transport industry of the future needs to come from somewhere. With so many great initiatives in Australia aiming to get girls more involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, there’s no reason that it can’t be driven by a more gender-diverse workforce.
To make that a reality, girls need to see that it’s an option for them. As the saying goes, you can't be what you can't see. It’s really important that transport businesses get involved in initiatives that not only encourage diversity but showcase real stories of the extraordinary women working in the industry today. We need young women to see what’s possible and say, “I can do that too,” otherwise, it’s going to be a long road to change.
Holding out a hand
It can be overwhelming to know what we can do, as individuals, to make a difference. It’s often as simple as offering support to the women coming up the ranks. Something that’s really helped me in my own career is to build my network and seek out mentors – both men and women, from all different industries. It’s given me the support and confidence I’ve needed to progress. So, it’s important to me that I now do the same, reaching out to the incredible young women considering a job in the industry. Whether you’re male or female, it’s up to you to hold out a hand and extend opportunities to those who could benefit from it.
In the end, gender balance is better for everyone. We all think differently, and we all bring different perspectives to situations. A diverse industry will lead to better decision-making, and a more inclusive and welcoming workplace. That’s why initiatives that encourage everyone to take steps towards change are so important – to make sure we enter the next phase of transport’s future with all the best hands on deck.
To find out more about the current state of gender diversity in transport, and how you can pledge your support to drive change, download your free whitepaper today.
This article was originally published on Fullyloaded, the official website for the ATN magazine.
About Melissa Taylor
After a successful career in retail management, Melissa became the first female in four generations to join the management ranks in her family’s 101-year-old business. Melissa is dedicated to improving pathways into the transport industry, participating in the GenR8 youth engagement program and the ‘Count me in’ program which highlights career opportunities for local women. Melissa has also worked with the QLD government and TAFE to offer all employees the opportunity to complete a qualification in their chosen role. As the QTA’s 2015 Trucking Woman of the Year, and the National Trucking Industry’s Woman of the Year for 2016, Melissa’s attitude is best summed up by her own statement – “why should we be ordinary when we can be extraordinary!”.