Taking active steps towards gender equity

Speaking at a Women in Transport Safety Forum this week, Department of Transport Secretary Paul Younis made a public commitment to change the department’s gender imbalance in a meaningful and accountable way.

Mr Younis announced a Women in Transport Steering Committee, to be made up of leaders from organisations across the transport sector, charged with bringing forward issues and being accountable for targets. 

“We’ve spoken a lot about this at the executive table and we have a clear vision for a gender equal workplace. I expect you to hold us accountable, to hold me accountable, for making sure we shift these figures,” said Mr Younis.

The Department started the Women in Transport program in 2017. Since then, the number of women in the transport department has increased from 40 to 43 per cent. The transport operator workforce has risen from just 16 up to 21 per cent.

“These numbers are still too low,” said Mr Younis. 

“It is neither equitable nor sustainable to have a transport sector dominated by one gender. Action needs to be taken to identify and address barriers to the participation of women and marginalised genders in our sector.”

Mr Younis spoke of the forthcoming Women in Transport Strategy, which will detail policies to actively intervene where there is discrimination, such as instilling retention practices for mothers, conducting gender-blind recruitment processes and ensuring there are adequate facilities across the network.

“We still don’t have proper female facilities in some of our workplaces across the network. When I found that out, not that long ago, I was shocked – and embarrassed – that that is still there. There are some fundamental structural issues we need to address,” Mr Younis admitted.

The department has undertaken extensive ongoing research to understand why so few women work in transport.

The answers centred around three themes: Changing the male-centric culture of the wider transport sector; addressing the barriers to change; and making men an active part of the solution. 

The research also showed that although transport is a hugely appealing segment for women, retaining them in the workforce remains an issue. 

“We need to understand how our actions discriminate and alienate women in the workforce and we need to be part of that response because I know there are a lot of men that do want to change this inequity and be a part of the solution. 

“Our new strategy focuses on leadership and accountability and will focus on clear governance for our Women in Transport program,” said Mr Younis.

“That’s a commitment the executive has collectively made at our organisation.”

Mr Younis also responded to audience questions about gender equity being reflected at the executive level, acknowledging that we have a long way to go while noting the department's leadership team is currently 50 per cent women.

“We are committed to ensuring that we have gender equity across all of transport, especially in leadership positions,” he said. 

- Nichola Patterson