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Image of Jo Field and Women in Transport board members on site visit to Crossrail, Farringon site

The deadline for large companies to report their gender pay gaps was last month and transport and infrastructure companies have reported some of the biggest pay gaps.

The civil engineering and construction industry reports an average 36% gender pay gap. There picture for transport varies. Transport for London reports men are, on average, paid 19.7% more than women, while Highways England reports an average gender pay gap of 5.4%. Ryanair reports an average 76% gap. The reasons for the gender pay gap in transport and infrastructure are not because men and women are being paid different rates for doing the same job, which would be illegal, but because there are a lack of women in the workforce, especially in leadership positions. Research released this month by the IPPR and Deloitte supports the idea of a 'seniority gap' as being one of the main drivers of the gender pay gap.

Now it is more important than ever that we breakdown gender stereotypes and unconscious bias in male dominated professions and attract and retain women at all levels, so we can close the gender pay gap.

Research shows diversity is good for business, so building a diverse team should be a top priority for every organisation. A diverse team helps increase employee engagement, innovation and productivity. This gives a diverse organisation a significant advantage over its competitors.

A lack of diversity in the transport industry

Transport is one industry that is working hard to attract more women to improve gender balance and close the pay gap. But currently less than one-quarter of UK transport workers are women. Because of this, organisations are missing out on huge amounts of talent. There’s also the issue of the growing skills shortage in the transport industry. This means there aren’t enough people with the necessary skills to deliver future road and rail projects. But not all companies in the sector recognise the skills shortfall.

So what are we doing to turn things around?

One of the main reasons I founded JFG Comms is to improve gender balance in the transport industry. 

Where did my passion for change come from? I was inspired to campaign for improved gender balance when I returned to work following the birth of my youngest son. Sleep deprived with a baby and a young toddler, I felt I wasn't performing at my best. I looked for role models I could turn to for support. At that time, more than ever, I noticed the lack of women in senior leadership positions in the transport industry.

I thought more needed to be done to change this, and I decided to reach out and encourage more women to consider transport careers. Setting up my own business to help transport organisations improve gender parity, seemed like the perfect way to achieve change.

Challenging gender stereotypes

While things are improving, we are still faced with gender stereotypes every day. An example of this is children’s clothes and toys. Many parents, young people and teachers still see certain jobs and industries as not for women. And this isn’t right.  Gender stereotypes form at a young age. So it’s important for us to challenge them and send out positive messages to children, parents, teachers and beyond, that these jobs are for girls, not just for boys. This is something I am passionate about! There are so many exciting jobs and opportunities in the transport sector. You don't have to do engineering and technical roles. You can do HR, communications, legal and much more. In fact, almost any job you can think of, you can do in the transport industry. 

My top 5 tips to achieve a gender-diverse workforce

Many businesses in the transport industry want to achieve a more diverse workforce, but don’t know where to start. Here are my five top tips to help employers improve workforce diversity and attract and retain women at all levels: 

  1. Profile women doing all jobs at all levels in the company. This will provide young people with visible role models and inspire them to consider careers in the sector.
  2. Set up peer mentoring and support schemes for parents. Produce guides to help staff manage pregnancy, maternity, paternity and shared parental leave. This will help people deal with the massive change in their lives when they become parents. It will help women return to work after maternity leave. 
  3. Actively encourage flexible and agile working for all staff. This should be led from the top. Senior leaders, especially male senior leaders, should be seen to work flexibly.
  4. Be aware of unconscious bias and the impact it can have. An example would be assuming a woman who has just returned from maternity leave won’t have the time to take on a challenging new project or wish to step-up to cover a more senior role.
  5. Establish diverse interview panels. Recruitment panels that lack diversity are more likely to make recruitment decisions that favour ‘people like them’. This disadvantages under-represented groups.

By using these tips to move towards a more diverse transport industry, we can help address the skills shortage, take advantage of the wonderful talent we have available, and close the gender pay gap.

Written by: Jo Field, Founder & Managing Director, JFG Comms