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Council wins right to recruit only women drivers to help tackle gender gap

Ipswich-City-Council

With less than 4% of its truck driving workforce being women, the Ipswich City Council applied for an exemption under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD) so it can target women to fill more of its truck driving positions and help reduce the gender gap.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) has granted this exemption, which will allow the council to target women in its attempts to hire Waste Services Truck Drivers and assist them in gaining their Heavy Rigid (HR) licences.

In seeking the exemption, the council submitted that should the exemption be granted, it would assist or advance women disadvantaged because of discrimination they have already faced. In support of this they identified that:

  • Women are recognised as being under-represented across the transport industry and, in the specific case of the Council, there were only two female drivers from a cohort of just over 50 drivers;
  • Generally, only 17.5% of those working in the transport industry were women, and of those, only 6.5% were women in driving positions (from Working Women in Transport – A Snapshot The Follow Up);
  • The transport industry is rated as one of the lowest in Australia for gender diversity. 26.4% of the workforce were women, far lower than the all industry average of 46.9% (from Driving Change: Transport Industry’s Gender Equality Gap Revealed).

They also identified that there are often socio-economic barriers faced by women seeking to meet the Heavy Rigid (HR) licence prerequisite and that there are significant costs involved in obtaining a HR licence, including specialised lessons, the time involved for the lessons, as well as the cost of the licence itself. When considering the costs, it further matters that women are on average paid 14% less than men (Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistic 2020).

In considering the exemption, the QIRC had to determine whether the exemption is in the community interest. In reaching the determination that it was in the interest of the community, the QIRC highlighted that:

  • companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to drive financial returns that outperform industry averages;
  • the rise in female employment since 1974 has boosted Australia’s economic activity by 22%;
  • encouraging more women to join the workforce will fill roles across all sectors, increasing productivity and meeting consumer demand; and
  • having a diverse range of voices gives businesses a large pool of expertise and makes them better at adapting to change.

For businesses wanting to take their own steps in reducing the gender gap in their workplace, the Queensland Trucking Association is available to assist with submissions to the QIRC. To read the full decision for the Ipswich City Council, please click here. For businesses wanting assistance with their own submissions to the QIRC, please email ezra@qta.com.au.

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