Are women well represented in the industry?

A report publicised on International Women’s Day (8 March 2021) by Search Consultancy has suggested the transport industry is not employing enough females.

The research shows that 63% of managers within the transportation industry believe their sector still struggles with a lack of gender diversity.

The research was conducted with 1,000 managers and asked respondents to rate how they believed their industry compared against a range of diversity markers. The study also looked into racial and age diversity within businesses. It found 57% of managers in the transportation industry believed their business lacked racial diversity with 52% admitting age diversity was an issue. It also suggested 57% of managers believe a more diverse workforce would help resolve the skills shortage in the transportation industry.

Erin Vickers, director of talent and engagement at Search Consultancy, said: “Although research shows that 68% of managers in the transportation sector believe their industry is suffering from a skills shortage, little is being done to encourage a more diverse workforce and consequently widen the talent pool available.

“The benefits of having a diverse team are endless. Looking outside of the typical candidate demographic can help resolve the skills shortage, create a better understanding of customers and significantly improve employer brand. Now more than ever, it is time to encourage increased diversity in the workplace and help businesses grow following a very difficult 12 months.”

Operators celebrate their female employees

Despite these findings, operators from across the UK’s bus and coach industry have used International Women’s Day to highlight the part women play in the sector.

The day was marked by Go North East, whose staff joined in with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’. Team members across the company have been striking the ‘Choose to Challenge’ pose to show support and solidarity for female colleagues, and also to call out inequality.

The Go-Ahead owned operator also invited some of its female employees to tell their story of getting into the industry. One of them is Sharon, a bus driver at Go North East’s Gateshead Riverside depot. She said: “After leaving school, I became a sewing machinist, working for CWS in Pelaw and then J Barbours until I had my first child in 2002. After I’d had my second child in 2008, I started working as a part-time cleaner, doing this alongside raising my children. When they’d grown a bit older, I decided I wanted a new challenge which was when my husband, Shaun, an engineer for Go North East, suggested I give bus driving a try. To be honest, I was really apprehensive at first; I thought that it was a very male-orientated job. But Shaun kept on encouraging me to apply, and so I did, and ended up getting the job; I started my new career as a bus driver in 2018. I’ve noticed there aren’t many women in the company, but those that I have met here have made my new career journey very enjoyable (with one or two hiccups along the way!). It’s a very rewarding job – no two days are ever the same.”

Martijn Gilbert, managing director at Go North East, said: “The tide is turning on the traditional stereotypes of roles such as bus driving and we are continuing to work hard on diversity and inclusivity matters, ensuring that we better reflect the communities that we serve.

“Our parent company, Go-Ahead, are looking to increase female representation from 11% to 20% by 2025, and we hope that raising awareness of career opportunities, and sharing stories like these, will help encourage more women to consider working in the bus sector.

“We have an excellent training school to teach people how to drive a bus, but having great customer service skills is an important first step attribute.

“With the current challenges affecting the retail and leisure sectors, we are particularly keen to hear from people who may now be looking for work and have a strong retail or customer service background.”

Stagecoach East marked International Women’s Day by shining a light on its female staff who are breaking gender stereotypes in the transport industry.

Barbara Donovan, a bus driver based at the Cambridge depot, has been working at Stagecoach for 14 years. She said: “When I first saw the advert for the role as a driver I was dubious as I always thought it was predominantly a male environment. However, as a woman I can say that there are many women who work in this role and I couldn’t be happier to be part of this family. As a mother, a wife and a grandmother I wanted a job that meant I could spend time with my family. The various shifts, duties and rest days mean that I can spend valuable time with my grandson and family.”

As well as showcasing their employees, Stagecoach East are also highlighting the many diverse roles available in the sector. Aga Spolnik is an Engineering Clerk who started her career with Stagecoach in 2006, and oversees the administrative duties in the engineering department for all 120 buses. Asked what the best aspect of the job was, Aga said: “Every day is a new challenge and I love being part of the engineering team.”

Darren Roe, Managing Director for Stagecoach East, said: “International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the fantastic female staff and employees who keep the wheels turning at Stagecoach East. The transport sector can be misunderstood as quite a male-dominated industry, so it’s important for us to highlight the brilliant women helping us to serve the community in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Peterborough on a daily basis.”

Iveco has also marked International Women’s Day by releasing a video about women working in the commercial vehicle industry.

Luca Sra, Chief Operating Officer IVECO Truck Business Unit, said: “At Iveco we are proud to highlight the role of women in our industry, which remains vastly underrated. We wanted to celebrate their contribution and their determination to succeed in their chosen profession. The three women share a deep-rooted passion for their career, which has driven them to break with stereotypes and carve a career for themselves, opening the way for future generations of women. We hope that this project will inspire the young women of tomorrow to follow their passion, wherever it may take them.”

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