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Calling all ladies: Here’s what you can bring to the logistics industry

By Pacific National
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We're determined to create a transport and logistics workforce filled with gender diversity.

There are far too many industries out there dominated by one gender. At Pacific National, we believe that transport and logistics simply doesn’t have to be one of them. While our workforce on the ground is predominantly men, we’ve made it a mission to bring more gender diversity into our operations.

Rather than doing so just for the sake of it, we believe that there are a whole host of women across Australia and New Zealand who have the talent to help us improve. The overall national scale of diversity issues statistically is still, at large, quite out of proportion.

For example, looking at Australia specifically, statistics collated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency show that women make up a little over a third (35.8 per cent) of all the full-time employees under contract across the country.

Like many other sectors, we believe that transport and logistics should attain to get that number much closer to the 50-50 mark. So, how can we, and the industry as a whole, make the changes that attract more highly-skilled, passionate women to the sector?

Getting the basics right

While there’s little denying that the issue is a vast one that needs to be tackled with a progressive approach, some of the changes that freight companies have already made are relatively small, but they have had an important impact.

Guardian contributor and freight and logistics executive Melanie Hall explained that one of the biggest barriers when she first got into the sector was a lack of basic equipment. Hard hats, steel-toed boots and various other pieces of health and safety equipment were designed specifically to cater to men – and many organisations simply didn’t have the right kit for women.

However, this was something that was quickly addressed as soon as it became a relatively widespread issue.

Women across the workforce

Perceptions in the past have perhaps been that frontline work in the transport and logistics industry is heavy lifting ‘men’s work’. However, today, in part thanks to advances in technology, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Rail [freight] sometimes has had a perception issue that it is unsuitable for women … But I certainly don’t think this is the case anymore. There’s no doubt that front line roles for women have their challenges, but with the right support and culture, their contribution is real, important and increasing,” explained Pacific National Business Improvement Manager Bridgette Byrne.

Ms Byrne, being a key PN representative, recently spoke at the Rail Track Association Australia Women in Rail forum, an event centred on assessing the gender diversity issues across the transport and logistics industry.

“Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that the event highlighted was a lack of the aforementioned on-the-ground female workers across operations. In fact, we’ve found that women can make up just 6 per cent of the workforce in such positions,” she stated.

At Pacific National, it’s our aim to continually challenge the notion that certain operations are ‘male jobs’, and ultimately create a workplace filled with gender diversity from top to bottom.

The pink boots approach

In a recent flux of diversity campaigns being released by the Careers team aimed at attracting diverse applicants into the business, shaping the business for tomorrow is becoming a reality. With an innovative approach and a variety of non traditional advertising channels being deployed, the recent release of the “new shoes” campaign is one example.

The campaign resulted in a staggering number of women from diverse backgrounds of experience coming to the table to represent what they have to offer. The process explored a rigorous merit based approach looking at actual skill sets required on the job and how previous transferable skills could possibly meet those requirements.

The campaign was a successful demonstration of how shifting mindsets on recruiting the skills for tomorrow can have significant impact on the results for today.

Creating opportunities for highly-skilled women is a must for the transport and logistics sector.Creating opportunities for skilled women is a must for the transport and logistics sector.

 

The diversity difference

While the mission of getting more women into the workforce is certainly one that’s ongoing, we believe that it’s achievable to create more parity over time. Rather than just pursuing the endeavour, we are putting our weight behind the fact that a varied workforce can ultimately drive any company forward.

Simply, diversity makes business sense. Not just in gender, but in background culture and experiences as well. By garnering a workforce that has more unique elements it becomes simpler to make the big decisions and boost competitiveness.

To that end, the Harvard Business Review explained that diversity is directly linked to innovation. Ultimately, a workforce that has an array of different people working as one will be able to come up with ideas that are a little ‘outside the box’.

In terms of freight and logistics, the industry is now multinational and intertwines with nearly every other sector imaginable. Consequently, building a workforce that is well equipped to deal with a global base of customers – whether they be gender specific, from a different country, or even culture – is an important aspect of business growth.

Closing the gender gap 

Coming back to opening up more routes for women in logistics and freight, the whole endeavour is likely to take some time. Many of the gender perceptions of the freight and logistics sector discussed here are well rooted for many people, and changing these outdated beliefs is perhaps the first step in creating a truly diverse workforce.

At Pacific National, we’re committed to not only employing skilled, passionate women, but also doing so in such a way as an innovative leader for the industry at large.

In her assessment of the industry, Ms Hall surmised that it is not just important for the transport and logistics sector to hire more women, but do so in a way that attracts others into the workforce.

Those underlying issues are what we at Pacific National, and the rest of the transport and logistics sector, really need to be aware of. If we can begin to change the wider perception of the sector from the inside out, it will be much easier to develop a progressive, innovative and diverse workforce for the future.