March 8th marks International Women’s Day; an annual holiday whereby people across the globe celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women throughout history and today. It holds significant importance in raising awareness around the on-going struggle to achieve women’s equality worldwide. In the UK, female workers make up 47% of the workforce, and yet remain underrepresented, underpaid, and denied the same opportunities their male counterparts are offered. The same goes for women within the transport sector, accounting for only 20% of the workforce, transportation has long been a male dominated industry that even today, promotes a predominantly masculine culture. Although the figure of women joining transport is steadily improving, the push for further representation, at every level, is still very important.
The theme for this years International Women’s Day is #BreaktheBias. In an interview with Sonya Byers, CEO of Women in Transport, Byers stated: With this year’s theme, we have a wonderful opportunity to raise the visibility of talent we have at every level of transport from women just starting their career to senior leaders- and to showcase the diversity of opportunity in the transport sector”. It’s not enough for women to be hired into companies, they need to be offered the same opportunities and recognition of achievements that their male colleagues do; this includes stronger pathways for women to reach senior leadership positions. In 2021, 26% of all CEOs and managing directors were women, compared to only 15% in 2019. Although an improvement, this figure changes drastically when taking into consideration the woman’s background, with less than 0.1% of black women being in senior positions or top earners in society. This is evidence of growing intersectionality amongst women as we can no longer accept that, although every female is at a disadvantage to a man, doesn’t mean they all experience it at the same level. International Women’s Day doesn’t just advocate equal rights amongst gender, it also sheds light on the inequality women face based on their various backgrounds, including race, religion, class, sexuality, physical ability, and so on.
Figures from a 2021 consensus by the Department of Education found that there is still a median GPG (gender pay gap) of 4.0%. Although seemingly progressive, when put into perspective that women have been fighting for equal pay for over one hundred years and still haven’t achieved it, this percentage seems more regressive by comparison.
“In the 100-plus years since women won the right to vote in Britain, and despite the huge advances that have been made, from access to contraception, maternity leave and the workplace, women’s rights often seem to take two steps forward and one step back. Last week’s anniversary of the brutal kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, and, further from home, the erasure of women’s freedoms under the Taliban in Afghanistan continue to remind us that our hard-won rights cannot be taken for granted.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, a survey of nearly 2,000 Times readers reveals the stark differences between the experiences of men and women, with 47 per cent of women saying they have faced negative bias or discrimination because of their gender.” – The Times
There is no doubt the automotive industry is lagging behind other sectors as it seeks to redress its gender imbalance. Women have made great progress within HR, marketing, and sales roles, yet when it comes to engineering and manufacturing, they are all but invisible. There needs to be evidence of a diverse workforce in every aspect of the transport industry, not only to breakaway from the current outdated ideologies, but to prioritize opportunities for promotion and professional self-improvement regardless of gender. In order for the transport industry to thrive, it needs to encourage young people from all backgrounds to visualize their future within the sector. Not only does the automotive industry need to attract more women, but it also needs to put more opportunities in places in order to retain those that join. By working with schools, colleges, and universities, transport can be made more attractive, purely by targeting it at a more diverse audience.
Transport is a fast paced, every-changing industry, by increasing its diversity and range of roles and specialisms, it should only be a matter of time until it catches up with the other sectors already offering equal opportunities.