Call to challenge macho culture in transport

A survey has shown that women in the transport industry believes it has an image problem.
Report: Gender Perceptions & Experiences Working in Transport.

On International Women’s Day (8 March 2021), a group of parliamentarians from across the political spectrum has called on government and the transport industry to challenge macho behaviours and culture in the transport workplace.

The call follows the publication of new research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Transport and the industry group Women in Transport, which surveyed 567 transport industry professionals. The results, published in the report Gender Perceptions & Experiences Working in Transport, showed over two-thirds (69%) of women felt the transport industry has a macho culture. 70% of women also perceived the industry to have an image problem.

While 70% of the women surveyed said they had experienced discriminatory behaviour or language (this included derogatory or sexist remarks, jokes or statements targeted at them), the survey highlighted statistically significant differences in women’s and men’s perceptions of gender issues while working in transport. More women felt they had experienced discriminatory behaviour than men said they had witnessed it.

Ruth Cadbury MP

Ruth Cadbury MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport, said: “I am shocked but not surprised at the research findings, as this is what we have been hearing anecdotally for many years.

“Our report provides a stark warning that we are not doing enough and unless we challenge what can be seen as macho culture, the transport sector will miss out on exceptional talent.

“I am hopeful this new research will ignite positive change for the industry and will make the transport sector a more diverse and an inclusive place to work.”

Huw Merriman MP.

Transport Select Committee chairman Huw Merriman MP commented: “We cannot afford to let the headline figures of this report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport, and the industry group Women in Transport, go unchallenged.

“The Transport sector has always been the engine for ideas, innovation and change. From the challenges of the pandemic to delivering decarbonisation, we need new transport pioneers more than ever. The sector needs to reflect the country at large. Barriers to entry need to be knocked down.

“We must reflect the range and expertise which women bring to the transport sector to deliver this change. Our committee will join with you to deliver it.”

Despite reporting their negative experiences of industry culture, the women surveyed were overwhelmingly proud to work in the transport sector (83%), while 85% were likely to recommend a transport career to other women.

Katie Hulland, Women in Transport.

Katie Hulland, president of Women in Transport, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to address a gap in knowledge by researching the perceptions and experiences of women in transport. 

“While our report highlights many challenges women working in the transport sector are currently facing, it is great to see most of the women we surveyed are proud to work in our industry. 

“We will continue to support our Women in Transport members with a range of professional development events and initiatives, including a new leadership development programme. 

“We would also welcome government, parliamentarians and the transport industry working with us to deliver an industry wide campaign tackling the macho culture in transport.”

Of the 567 people who fully completed the survey, 289 were women, 272 were men, and six people did not define their gender. The average age of the complete sample was 42, ranging from 19 to 76 years old.

The report makes recommendations for government and the transport industry to take forward, including profiling and celebrating the diverse range of people within the transport sector who are helping the UK to build back better, and embedding flexible working policies post-Covid-19.

The full list of recommendations:

For government:

  • Develop a campaign to profile and celebrate the diverse range of people within the transport sector who have kept the network going and who are helping the UK to build back better. This could build on the #transportheroes campaign.
  • Support a cross-industry Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Charter to join up the different sector EDI Charters (e.g. Railway Industry Association / Women in Rail; Women in Aviation and Aerospace; Women in Maritime).
  • Commit to making the importance of greater diversity central to policymaking on how the transport industry can support a safe, greener recovery from Covid-19.

For the transport sector:

  • Provide clarity about their flexible working policies post Covid-19 and build it into industry culture going forward.
  • Establish gender inclusive recruitment and retainment practices, such as inclusive job descriptions, removing personal details from CVs, and diverse interview panels.
  • Resource gender equality staff networks to support women and non-binary people.
  • Establish reverse mentoring programmes to pair male senior leaders with women in more junior roles to enable better understanding of women’s experiences

For Women in Transport:

  • Work with government and industry to deliver an industry-wide campaign and toolkit to challenge macho behaviours and culture in the transport workplace. This should support men too, given concerns about the impact of the pandemic on mental health mentioned by survey respondents. As part of the toolkit, develop specific training to aid understanding of women’s experiences.
  • Tackle the issues of progression identified by research participants – particularly to senior levels for people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and women – and develop and deliver a leadership programme to support women leaders.

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