HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd has become an Ambassador Partner with Women in Transport, a not-for-profit women’s network on a mission to advance women working in the industry.
We spoke to Joanna Hill, Marketing and Communications Manager at the company about why she believes the partnership is the right move for the business:
“The partnership is a statement of intent, demonstrating the company’s commitment to embedding a more inclusive workplace as it embarks on a journey to change the historic perceptions of our industry. Namely, that a career in temporary traffic management is for a very specific set of people. A lot of things about our industry are changing right now, we’re embracing technology and more sustainable working methods, which makes now a great time to start shifting those perspectives.
What the statistics say
“If you look at the current industry statistics, it’s clear there’s room for improvement when it comes to attracting and retaining underrepresented talent, and reducing the overrepresentation in the industry. Women make up 47% of the UK workforce¹ but remain underrepresented in the transport sector and the infrastructure industry by 20%¹ and 23%² respectively. In addition, nearly 50%² of women leave infrastructure-based organisations before age 34, some of them leaving the industry entirely.
“The reasons for this mass exodus are not officially identified yet, and will likely relate to the obvious caring responsibilities. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. A study by global mining outfit McKinsey and Company points to a possible cause being that women are reaching a certain point in their careers when they are looking for that next step up but become disillusioned by an industry that is perceived as male-dominated. For example, their study found a “lack of diversity” in mining “lowered their motivation and sense of belonging”³. Not having enough female leaders as role models, and ingrained gender bias in company procedures (right down to the language used in policy documents) make it twice as hard for women to adapt to the culture³. I think we can draw parallels within our own industry. The impact these microaggressions have is very real.
“The study also found many women left the industry because they perceived there to be “fewer advancement opportunities [for them] than there [were] for their male colleagues… particularly in technical roles”³. They also reported struggling to “access the same ‘stepping stone’ operational roles as men”³ to help them advance their careers. Many would turn to academic achievement to bridge the gap, but found that a lengthy period of sector-specific experience was rated more highly than advanced technical qualifications when it came to shortlisting for promotion³ thus presenting another barrier to progression for female candidates.
But we always recruit the best person for the job!
“Something I hear a lot in conversation around recruiting women, or in fact any underrepresented group, into our industry is: “we always recruit the best person for the job”. I don’t doubt it, but what that statement does is assume there is no room for improvement in current practices when it comes to providing equitable opportunities for employment. It also leads me to ask, how can we be so confident they’re the best person for the job when we’re only reaching the overrepresented groups?
“What if the best person doesn’t know about careers in our sector, or wouldn’t consider themselves a viable candidate because of the perceived gender bias traditionally associated with our industry? What if the best person for the job has caring responsibilities that our current working culture or the types of jobs we offer, cannot accommodate? The latter is not unique to us. Even though 10% more women with dependent children go back to work now than 20 years ago, still, only 65% of them are in employment, compared to 93% of men with dependent children4.
“Of course, these are only my thoughts based on my research and lived experiences. I don’t know for certain what a deep dive into the data for our industry will uncover, but I think the assumptions we can draw from the data and similar studies provide a good starting point for us as a business at least to focus our approach. And that begins with a commitment to change. I believe that by becoming an Ambassador for Women in Transport we as an organisation have done just that – setting an intention to achieve transformational, sustainable change to embedding the principles of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect over the next five-years.
Why we chose Women in Transport
“There are numerous professional women’s networks, but given the unique nature of our industry, I feel Women in Transport aligns best with our aspirations and the challenges we face. It’s a network specifically focused on the employment, career advancement and retention of women in our sector, and I believe that by partnering with the network we’ve taken another important step on our journey to promote a strong and diverse workforce.
“I’ve personally been a member of Women in Transport for about six months, and I am now the volunteer Northwest Regional Lead. I’ve found the opportunities to network, volunteer, and access new experiences incredibly rewarding. I hope that my female colleagues, and the male agents of change across the company, have the same opportunities to raise their profile through the company’s partnership.
“Membership gives our employees access to a place of support, learning and friendship where they can share their experiences, and learn, discuss, and gain advice in a respectful, non-judgemental environment. All the while boosting awareness about underrepresentation and gender-related career challenges. As a responsible business, it is our duty to provide access to professional networks like this to raise our organisational standards and embed an inclusive, diverse, and respectful workplace where anyone from anywhere can succeed.”
- Women in Transport
- Supply Chain Sustainability School Diversity Benchmarking Data 2022
- Why women are leaving the mining industry and what mining companies can do about it | McKinsey
- More mothers with young children working full-time – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)