The Women in Transport movement gained further awareness yesterday with crucial support from Queensland-based Followmont Transport.
Held at the headquarters of Volvo Group Australia (VGA) in Brisbane, the event brought together key industry leaders to actively promote opportunities for women in the industry.
To mark the occasion, attendees were treated to the unveiling of Followmont’s latest distribution truck – a UD Quon 6×4 curtainsider resplendent in its pink livery.
Speaking at the event, Followmont Transport CEO, Mark Tobin, said the purpose of the event was to give kudos to the many women within his business and the wider transport community for the work they are doing.
“We need to embrace and grow the contributions of women in our industry because we wouldn’t be able to survive without them,” said Tobin, adding that Followmont has about 160 female employees.
“Everyone deserves an opportunity – it doesn’t matter how old you are, your gender or where you come from. That’s what we need to promote in the industry,” he said.
It’s an ideal shared by VGA, with the group’s President and CEO, Martin Merrick responding that the company was proud to support this initiative.
“We are passionate about celebrating diversity in our workforce and I’m very proud to say that 42 per cent of my leadership team and 26 per cent of our white-collar employees are female,” said Merrick.
“We have more to do in attracting female talent to the company, but we are making great progress. We want to state that it doesn’t matter what your gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation is, you can come to your place of work and be yourself.”
The event also included a forum comprising transport industry identities Roz Shaw, National Head of Transport at Gallagher; Julie Russell, Director, Russell Transport; Lauren Downs, Vice President Sales, UD Trucks Australia; and Mark Tobin, CEO of Followmont Transport.
Roz Shaw gave the audience an enthralling insight into her life in transport which literally started from the time she was born, and entailed more than 30 years of involvement, including management, of her family’s transport business, Hawkins Transport, that was started by her great grandparents in 1921.
After the business was sold Shaw was recruited by transport insurance broker Gallagher where she now uses her many skills to help transport clients with their insurance needs.
During the forum, participants were asked about their mentors and pathways into the industry, with Julie Russell commenting that her grandmother was a major influence in her decision to join the family’s transport business.
“My grandmother believed in me from a very young age, always wanting the best for me, but also hoping this would include me taking on her role in the business,” said Russell.
“There were also people in the business who didn’t let me forget that at the time I was still the receptionist, not the CEO, simply because of my last name. That was really grounding for me and being treated the same as the other employees kept me in check and helped me learn to be respectful,” she said.
Russell said a gender mix in the Russell Transport office has encouraged a more positive and cooperative working environment by changing the tone and energy.
“Introducing more women into our operations office created a calmer environment,” she said. “You still had robust conversations but at the end, I think, when women finish off a piece there’s a mutual respect that keeps things in balance.”
Mark Tobin summed up in two words how he felt about having a healthy balance of women in the Followmont business.
“Structure and control. If we didn’t have women who were able to keep things under control and maintain structure we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Tobin.
According to Roz Shaw, it goes both ways.
“It’s actually good when you can introduce men into the office because if you have an all-female staff there can be bitchiness,” Shaw said. “Bringing men into the equation creates a better environment – it definitely goes both ways.”
Lauren Downs delved deeper into the topic, saying that the fundamental differences between males and females can be complimentary in the workplace.
“Men and women are different and I think it’s about bringing these different ways of thinking together to engender positive and effective solutions to issues,” said Downs.
“As soon as you introduce more women and different ages of people into an organisation the benefits of diversity come to the fore. It brings different ideas through brainstorming into the room and really shows the power of diversity.”
One of our key strategies, according to Tobin, is to have the right people in the right places – whether male or female.
“Our industry is changing everyday with many challenges and we won’t succeed unless we’re open to recruiting the best people for the job – which in many cases can be females,” he said.
Tobin concluded by saying he intends to make this an annual event to help keep the momentum rolling in this very important cause.