Features & Interviews

Women in transport: unlocking opportunities

17 March 2022 #Features & Interviews

Women make up 47 per cent of the UK workforce yet remain underrepresented in the transport sector, accounting for only 20 per cent of workers.

However, thanks to efforts made in recent years by transport companies and other organisations, the situation is steadily changing, and women are becoming represented at every level.

International Women’s Day 2022 took place on 8 March,  and bus and coach operator Stagecoach used the opportunity to celebrate its female talent and its efforts to promote equality.

The firm launched its Women@Stagecoach employee network with the aim of giving women a voice to share their concerns about issues that particularly impact them.

It included a podcast, in which employees discussed ‘breaking the bias’, which was this year’s International Women’s Day theme.

Whether deliberate or unconscious, say those behind the campaign, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead, that knowing bias exists is not enough, and that action is needed to level the playing field.

To highlight the number of women in its team, Stagecoach in West Scotland ran an all-female driver line-up on 8 March on the Service 3 route between Onthank and Shortlees in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

The company is also celebrating its success in female recruitment with an 18% increase in female driver applications compared to last year.

In addition, more than a third of its female employees are currently highlighted as successors within the business, nominated to join its internal development programme ‘Shine Pool’.

Carla Stockton-Jones, UK Managing Director for Stagecoach said: “Our employee networks help raise awareness of many issues and this awareness starts conversations which leads to self-awareness and then ultimately change.

“International Women’s Day continues to be an important platform for starting these conversations and with this year’s theme being #breakthebias it allows men to join the conversation and become advocates which is equally as important.”

XPO Logistics is set to host its second women drivers forum at its national distribution centre in Crick, Northamptonshire this month as it looks to boost its women driver numbers.

The company is encouraging all women drivers in its UK and Ireland operations to attend its forum on 22 March.

The aim of its 2021 forum was to increase dialogue with women drivers about their work in a male-oriented industry, celebrate successes and give voice to the challenges they may face on a day-to-day basis.

This year’s forum will expand on those conversations and explore the best ways to attract and retain more women to quality jobs as XPO drivers.

Dan Myers, MD of XPO Logistics UK and Ireland, said: “There’s genuine value to bringing together women who have shared their experience of being a professional HGV driver.

“We want to know what works well and what we can improve to increase our driver team’s diversity.

“The insights shared by women drivers will shape our investments, recruitment and training approach for all drivers and help ensure that more women advance in careers behind the wheel.”

Women in Transport is an organisation in the UK that exists to promote careers and opportunities in the sector for women.

Recently, Amazon became a corporate partner to the organisation, partly to raise awareness of its Delivery Service Partner (DSP) programme to more women.

Amazon’s programme offers training and low start-up costs for women across the country who are passionate about launching and operating their own parcel delivery business.

The firm is also running a series of free events for women, focused on unlocking potential and overcoming the barriers to becoming a business owner.

Sonya Byers, CEO of Women in Transport said: “This is fantastic opportunity for women who are motivated to start their own business in transport and logistics, with support and hands on training from an industry leader committed to promoting gender balance in the transport sector.”

Only 1.2% of all UK commercial vehicle drivers are currently female, according to figures from trade body Logistics UK.

Logistics company Wincanton is encouraging more women to take up driving as a profession and is running campaigns aimed at diversifying its driver team.

Women currently comprise 6% of its driver apprentices, as opposed to an industry average of 1%, and the company says it is looking to work collaboratively with the recruitment industry on a female licence acquisition programme.

One of its success stories is Hollie Ridley from the Wincanton for Wilko team in Nottingham who wanted to be a truck driver at the age of six.

She passed her Class 2 (rigid) test in August 2015, then her Class 1 in January the following year. and is now a transport team leader at Wincanton, helping organise routing and schedules for a group of drivers and technicians.

Sally Austin, Chief People Officer at Wincanton said: “Breaking down the barriers and creating more opportunities for our current and future colleagues is fundamental to making Wincanton a great place to work.”

Menzies Distribution has also launched its ‘Women in Logistics’ campaign 2022 to showcase the equal opportunities it provides for women, from driving to finance, IT, warehousing, transport and fleet, HR and operational management.

During this year, the company will be sharing case studies to illustrate the work undertaken by women in the company.

These testimonies will also cover their different journeys to arrive in the world of transport and provide insight into recruitment, training, flexibility, career progression and the diverse motivations for females choosing this route.

The company said: “We will be engaging with all our stakeholders to explain our company’s own role in accelerating the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in logistics, as well as working closely with key industry bodies, and others committed to delivering change for women in this sector and the wider economy.”

From drivers to transport managers, women are increasing their presence in an industry traditionally seen as being male-dominated, a trend that will continue as the demand for highly skilled staff intensifies.

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