Image of Jo Field women in transport

Ahead of speaking at today's Women in Construction summit, our Founder, Jo Field, shares the personal experiences driving her campaign for gender equality in the transport, infrastructure and construction industries.

 

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 varied 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, many industries still suffer from a lack of workforce gender diversity:

  • 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

This is a problem I have experienced first-hand, and something I am passionate about changing.

When I first joined the transport industry, a lack of diversity wasn’t on my radar. It was only when I returned to work after the birth of my second child that I became more aware of the issue. I was sleep deprived and felt I wasn’t performing at my best. So I looked for peers and mentors I could turn to for support. My experience made me realise that, although there are some fantastic female role models and leaders in the industry, there are not enough of them.

This was the catalyst that sparked me to campaign for change and set me on a mission to improve gender balance in the transport industry and beyond!

Challenging stereotypes

I wanted to challenge the gender stereotypes that exist within male-dominated industries such as transport, infrastructure and construction. Stereotypes form at a young age and discourage women and girls from considering certain jobs and seeking the qualifications needed to do them.

Women and girls need to see what they can be. So industries that lack a visible workforce of women will continue to be perceived as ‘for men’ and women and girls will continue to feel excluded. I don’t want my children growing up in a world where women feel excluded from certain careers.

Also, if we can attract more women to the transport, infrastructure and construction sectors, we will help to address the industry’s skills shortage.

Championing diversity

Campaigning for improved gender diversity in the transport sector has been a massive part of  my career during the past five years. While driving forward the issue at Transport for London, I joined the Board of Women in Transport. I secured cross-party support and worked with parliamentarians to set up the first ever All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Transport, to help overcome women’s under-representation. This has definitely helped to sharpen political focus on the issue.


Helping the transport, infrastructure and construction sectors to champion gender diversity

But I wanted to do more to champion diversity. So after being named everywoman in Transport and Logistics Industry Champion in 2016, setting up a business to help other organisations champion gender diversity seemed like the natural next step for me to take.

So, what can we do to champion diversity and improve gender balance?

Here are my five top tips…

  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. 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.

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 steps to improve gender equality.

JFG Comms advises 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 to improve gender balance, check out our services or get in touch.