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Gender diversity in the transport industry ….. we all have a part to play

Great minds think alike. That’s how the saying goes. But this couldn’t be more wrong! A team that’s made up of many minds thinking alike is, in fact, a massive risk for any business.

Research shows businesses benefit from having a diverse workforce. Recruiting teams from a range of different socio-economic backgrounds and protected characteristics will mean your workplace benefits from a variety of skillsets, personalities and problem-solving approaches.

Diverse workplaces are more likely to increase employee engagement, innovation and productivity, helping to attract and retain staff.  And firms with the highest levels of gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to outperform their peers.

A Lack of diversity

Despite the business benefits being clear, gender diversity in the transport and infrastructure sectors is still very low:

  • Nearly 1.5 million people work in transport and logistics in the UK but only one-fifth of transport workers are women
  • Women make up just 13% of the construction sector workforce and only 11% of the engineering workforce, which is the lowest in Europe

Diversity is good for business, so building a diverse team should be a top priority for every organisation.

Challenging stereotypes

The transport industry needs to work hard to attract more women to improve gender balance and avoid missing out on huge amounts of talent. There’s also the issue of the growing skills shortage in transport and infrastructure. It’s estimated that 50,000 extra people are needed to deliver the planned investment into rail by 2033; 41,000 people are needed to support the road networks; and 180,000 people are needed to deliver the Heathrow Expansion project. 

Unfortunately, we are still faced with gender stereotypes in all walks of life every day. We need to break down these stereotypes and challenge perceptions that some parents, young people and teachers may have about certain jobs and industries not being for women. And even though more women are entering the sector at junior levels, we also need to make sure they want to stay.

What can we do to champion diversity and improve gender balance?

Starting with just a few small positive changes can help organisations improve gender balance and take advantage of the many benefits this brings. Here are our top tips to help employers improve workforce diversity and attract and retain women at all levels:

  1. Introduce flexible working for all staff: A recent study we carried out on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Construction and Property Group, identified flexible working as a key factor in recommending the construction industry to other women. It was also felt that flexible working was key to attracting women back into industries they have left. We know from Women in Transport members that flexible working for everyone is key to increasing women’s representation in the industry, especially among staff doing operational roles.
  2. Profile women doing all jobs at all levels in your company: Women and girls need to see what they can be and this will provide young people with visible role models and inspire them to consider careers in the sector.
  3. Consult and engage employees to fully understand the gender issues in your organisation and inform your inclusion strategy.
  4. Set up women’s networks to support women across the organisation who may be feeling isolated as part of male-dominated teams. The networks should be open to all and encourage support from male allies.
  5. Implement a sponsorship programme such as Our Time to enable women to progress to senior leadership roles. We developed the toolkit in partnership with Deloitte and the Mayor of London. It is free to download here.
  6. Encourage women to ‘champion their achievements’ in order to raise their profile and get the job they want. Often women keep their heads down and get on with ‘doing a good job’ resulting in them being overlooked for promotions because their bosses simply aren’t aware of the good work they do.

So the saying shouldn’t be ‘Great minds think alike’. It should be ‘Many diverse minds create great things’. And by following even some of these tips, we can all take a step in the right direction towards improving gender equality.