Future looking brighter for female truckies

It’s hardly groundbreaking news that the heavy vehicle driver workforce is overwhelmingly male.

What is groundbreaking however, is the incredible support WiTA’s Commonwealth funded female heavy vehicle driver training and recruitment Foot in the Door (FitD) initiative is receiving from industry employers.

Administered by the NHVR, this program continues its work with RTOs Australia-wide to assess, train, and mentor women into driving roles with progressive employers who recognise gender diversity as a key driver of excellence, innovation and safety.

Initially anticipated to support 50 women – through the generosity and support of employers foregoing FitD wage and training subsidy support, it’s anticipated the program will now place up to 100 women into trucking careers.

An organisation dedicated to promoting the equal participation of female drivers, WiTA has spent almost four years spotlighting a steady flow of role models through the organisation’s hugely popular Facebook page.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and together through their posts, female drivers have spoken volumes about their capabilities, skills and resourcefulness in establishing successful careers in one of the most nation’s colourful and challenging vocations.

Followers, female and male, have embraced the platform – providing invaluable advice and support – challenging those considering trucking careers to take a closer look.

For years the industry has asked, “where are the women?” Their invisibility was legendary. The answer, unfortunately, is not so legendary. Through lived experience, women learned employers would look past them to male applicants they deemed more suited to the role. Occasionally a female driver slipped through the net – held up as the token equal-opportunity female employee.

Thankfully, today female drivers are no longer invisible. Women are now beginning to materialise and are on the move seeking to establish trucking careers – and employers are welcoming them with open arms. At this critical point, every industry choice, every footprint and every action makes a difference.

Until now, no comprehensive body of evidence or analysis in terms of female heavy vehicle workforce participation (what women want) if you like – has been compiled. This lack of critical data continues to make the task of tackling the issue of under-employment of female drivers difficult.

On completion of the Foot in the Door pilot mid-2024, the ground-breaking Women in Trucking (WiT) Report will update this scant area of knowledge – bringing together foundation data collected from industry stakeholders and female drivers – newly licensed and experienced.

WiT Report researchers will also take a deep dive – examining the correlation between gender-bias and the overwhelming gender disparity that continues to define the sector – because our shared future as female drivers in this male-dominated sector can only be written when one set of behaviours and rules applies to all.

Across a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews, researchers will analyse the lived experiences of FitD graduates, asking the hard questions: Why do women find it so difficult to enter the industry? What are their experiences with gender bias and harassment?

We will examine the types of work do these women do, their previous vocations, where they live, what licences they hold, their average age and which employers are more (or less) likely to employ them.

The WiT Report will considerably expand Australian female heavy vehicle driver literature – providing greater clarity around the status quo. Additionally, it is hoped findings will help inform future policy, opening new conversations on how the sector can better ad- vance work opportunities for women pursuing driving careers.

The key to lasting positive change in terms of industry attitude toward women is to create inclusive work environments – female friendly workplace cultures shaped by leaders at all levels.

Women know that breaking through the glass bull-bar can be tough. We also know diversity matters. Thankfully the industry now views gender equity is an investment – not a cost – so the future’s definitely looking brighter for all.

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