Making women visible in transport

Following her recent appointment as president of Women in Transport, a not-for-profit organisation that empowers women to maximise their potential, Dominic Browne talks to Jo Field of JFG Communications about her ambitions as president, diversifying the transport sector, and the future of the industry as we recover from the pandemic.

What are your main ambitions as president?

One of the first things I want to do is consult and engage with our members to shape our vision, plans and future service offering. This will lead to the publication of a five-year strategy for advancing women in transport.

I also want to drive forward the recommendations from our research in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport on Gender Perceptions and Experiences Working in Transport, which we launched on International Women’s Day.

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These recommendations include a campaign and toolkit to challenge macho behaviours and culture in the transport workplace, and ensuring flexible and remote working continues as the industry norm where possible.

We are looking for industry partners to support us on these projects and help drive them forward, so I’d welcome conversations with anyone interested in being involved.

How has being part of Women in Transport helped your career?

Being part of Women in Transport has been hugely helpful for my career. It is an amazing professional network that links women and men across the industry. It provides connections on many important topics, as well as gender balance.

What campaigns does Women in Transport have coming up?

We’ve recently launched Lead, our leadership development programme designed to evolve and grow the leadership capability and confidence of women working in transport. I see this as being the start of the creation of a powerful network of women leaders and programme alumni who will support each other and enable us to become a movement for change.

Over the coming months and years, we’ll be working hard to renew cross-party political support for what we do, as well as reigniting our work with the Department for Transport to highlight careers in transport.

The recent creation of our new regional hubs across the UK has been a huge success, helping us build on the strengths and unique characteristics of the sector in each specific region. I am keen to expand our reach and enable more women and men across the country to benefit from our services. Again, we welcome conversations with anyone interested in helping us to launch new hubs.

What attracted you to your day job, PR in the transport, construction and infrastructure sectors?

Before setting up JFG Communications, a public affairs and PR consultancy with a purpose to encourage more women into the transport industry, I spent almost a decade at Transport for London, building and leading their award-winning stakeholder engagement team. I fell in love with the transport sector and I realised there is a real need for professional communicators to be at the heart of the industry.

Transport is all about people, so comms professionals are needed to help the sector engage with its customers and stakeholders, as well as make the case for infrastructure and services.

How would you rate the work of the transport sector to diversify the workforce and increase the number of women working in the industry?

The number of women working across the transport industry has been static in in recent years and is nowhere near the level it should be. Currently only 20% of the UK transport sector is made up of women, compared to 47% of the UK workforce.

There are some fantastic recruitment and retention initiatives across the industry and the work of organisations such as ourselves at Women in Transport is definitely helping.

But the sector needs to get better at promoting our stories and letting women and girls see what a great industry we work in. As 70% of women we surveyed in our gender perceptions research felt the industry has an image problem. This shows there is still a long way to go.

How would you assess the ability of the transport sector to engage with the public?

I think transport could learn from the retail industry in terms of customer service. This is something that is now more important than ever as we encourage people back onto the network following the pandemic.

I also believe better public engagement will lead to improved workforce diversity. If we can improve communications and public engagement on transport projects, then we open them up to a wider audience, encouraging more women and under-represented groups to consider transport careers.

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TfL installed ‘green woman’ signals at more than 20 crossings to celebrate International Women’s Day

After the impact of Invisible Women and the changes brought about by the pandemic, do you think transport planning needs to change to provide services that better reflect society’s travel habits?

There’s no doubt both the impact of Invisible Women and the pandemic will bring changes to the transport industry and how we operate in the future.

Transport planning definitely needs to respond to our changing environment and it’s clear a ‘one size fits all’ or gender-biased approach will no longer work. Key to this is having all sectors of the community represented in the planning, design, delivery and operation of transport infrastructure and services. Only then will we have a transport system that truly caters for everyone’s needs.

How do you see transport changing as the recovery kicks in and how do you see careers in transport and the skills they need changing in the future?

The transport industry is at the forefront of the recovery from the pandemic. All eyes are upon us.

It’s still too early to tell what transport will look like in the future. We don’t yet know if businesses will continue working from home and people will travel less. But we do need to keep investing in transport and we do need to keep encouraging people back on to public transport. This is because people will always need to travel and this needs to happen in a sustainable way.

New infrastructure is also so important in creating jobs to aid the economic recovery.

Digital skills are becoming more and more important as the industry evolves, so we need to make sure we are upskilling the current workforce and investing in digital apprenticeships.

What is the most common concern among your members and how are you helping?

Over the last year, a lot of the concerns among our members have been to do with mental health and wellbeing as we experience the effects of lockdown and adjust to a situation that none of us has encountered before.

We’ve placed a big focus on continuing to engage with our members through this past year and delivering our services online with as little interruption as possible. We’ve introduced a regular newsletter and started running fortnightly Zoom networking sessions.

We’ve seen our membership numbers grow over the past six months and it’s been really reassuring to receive some fantastic feedback from our members on how well we’ve guided the organisation through the pandemic.

It makes me very proud to see how far Women in Transport has progressed over the years. From humble beginnings, to gaining cross-party support for our work, and most recently steering our way through the pandemic. It really is a fantastic organisation to be involved in, and one I would encourage anyone working in the transport industry to join. I’m excited for what lies ahead.

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