Image of Jo Field at Crossrail TBM breakthrough Canary Wharf 2013

In this blog for International Women's Day, our Founder and Managing Director, Jo Field discusses how we can improve gender balance in the transport and infrastructure industries.

Great progress but not balanced yet

I’ve spent the past 12 years of my career working in the male-dominated transport and Infrastructure industries.

There has been a great deal of change over this time. The business benefits of diverse teams are now more widely understood and accepted. There is growing recognition that gender balance is everyone’s issue, not just a women's issue. Women’s networks have also improved their reach and recruited a growing movement of male allies - men who champion equality and are willing to call-out unacceptable behaviour.  

There are loads of great initiatives aimed at attracting more women, and keeping them in the sector. But we are still a long way off achieving gender balance: 

  • Nearly 1.5million 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.

Why are the numbers still low? And what more can we do to improve gender balance?

Flexible working: a key factor

In a recent Construction News briefing, Katie Kelleher raised the need for more flexibility, especially in terms of on-site roles.

There are some examples of flexible work sites such as the pioneering trial implemented by the Costain Skanska Joint Venture on the HS2 enabling works contract. But this sort of thing is still the exception rather than the norm.

Time and time again we see the flexible working being raised as a key issue by our customers in the transport and infrastructure sectors. In fact, I believe it’s such an important topic that I put it at the heart of our business model when I set up JFG Comms!

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.

Top tips for improving gender balance

So what can we do to improve gender parity and achieve #BalanceforBetter?

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for employers to assess where they are on their equality journey, and to review the actions they need to take to achieve #BalanceforBetter.

Putting flexible working front and centre is a good start. But what else can we do?

Here are five steps employers can take to drive forward change, improve gender balance and attract and retain women at all levels:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Consult and engage your employees to fully understand the gender issues in your organisation and inform your inclusion strategy.
  4. Develop toolkits and content to give staff the know-how to build diverse and inclusive teams.
  5. 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.

We advise businesses on how they can create gender diversity and inclusion policies and communications to increase female representation at all levels. To learn more about how JFG Comms can help your organisation with improving gender balance, check out our services or get in touch.