Catriona Crawshaw, Head of Supply Chain at Plan International presented an engaging breakout session at the 2023 Annual Fleet Forum Conference.
The topic: Diversity and the power of increasing diversity among our fleet workforce. Whilst many of the sessions in the conference this year looked at Environmental Sustainability, this session was examining broader social sustainability and the role of gender in delivering against the SDGs.
Social sustainability is about making sure that communities and societies can thrive and continue to exist in a healthy, fair and equal way.
It is by now well-documented that diverse teams are not only stronger and more creative, but are also more effective, inclusive and happier! So why are our fleet workforces still lagging behind in their diversity? For example, why are women so poorly represented in fleet roles? Of course, it’s important to remember that diversity is much broader than gender alone. This session focused on this one area of diversity in order to explore it in greater depth.
Research is increasingly showing that building greater gender diversity in driver teams brings value in safety as well. Statistically, female drivers are less likely to speed, tailgate, use mobile phones while driving, be under the influence of alcohol while driving, and are more likely to indicate when changing lanes. These driving behaviours not only contribute to safety but also show that female drivers are more likely to be deploying eco-driving techniques.
But what are some of the barriers to women choosing careers in fleet, whether that is as professional drivers, mechanics, fleet managers, supply chain leaders or in the broader automotive industry? A range of factors contribute and can often include: education and skills barriers, concerns over safety and security, cultural and / or religious factors, social stigma and acceptance, accessibility including flexible working and childcare provision, as well as a lack of awareness and motivation to enter into the workforce. There are also practical constraints which limit access. In several countries it seems to be a ‘norm’ for female drivers to be trained on automatic instead of manual transmission vehicles, limiting their ability to perform in manual only fleets. And the vehicles we’re driving are still designed, built and safety tested to male driver specifications and body type averages. Put simply, the equipment they need to work isn’t designed for them to use.
So what can we do in our organisations, and approaches, to encourage more women into fleet roles? Catriona outlined a number of examples from Plan International, illustrating the importance of not only an enabling policy and values/behaviour framework, but more broadly building a culture of diversity and inclusion organisation wide and ensuring senior leadership buy-in.
Catriona shared her experiences of how to consider diversity and inclusion across the employee lifecycle, including:
Embedding gender sensitive recruitment practices (including advertising strategies)
Developing training opportunities (in role, and as entry to roles)
Flexible working practices
Recognition and reward of women in fleet
There are yet more ways to get women into the fleet industry, and Catriona concluded her session sharing creative examples from Plan International where they have supported young girls with scholarships for training, and developed partnerships with automotive suppliers to encourage women and girls into this growing community of women in fleet.
Let’s get this trending….. #WOMENINFLEET