Gender inequality in the labour market has been an issue for decades, with the Treaty of Rome laying down the first EU equal pay regulation in 1957. 63 years later, the Coronavirus pandemic threatens to reverse important gains made towards women’s equality, as women experience the worst of the detrimental effects on the labour market. According to research undertaken by McKinsey, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the crisis than men’s. 

Jutta Allmendinger, Professor of Educational Sociology and Labor Market Research at Humboldt University analysed the impact of Covid-19 on gender equality in the labour market and states that retraditionalisation – the return of ‘traditional’ gendered labour roles – has been a significant factor. 

During lockdowns, there has been the need for some to undertake caring or homeschooling duties alongside or instead of paid labour. These duties have often become the responsibility of the women in a family unit, effectively stalling their professional development or fully removing them from the labour market for the foreseeable future. 

Prior to COVID, women made up 47% of the UK workforce yet remained underrepresented in the transport sector, where they accounted for only 20% of workers. While it might seem too easy to assume this can be attributed to jobs in the transport sector seeming ‘unappealing’ to women, there are many factors, ranging from small to significant, that employers in the sector should ensure they confront and address to redress the imbalance (pay/pension gaps, gender gap in decision making etc).

The International Foundation of Transport Workers has echoed this, stating on its website “The future of work will become an even more pressing issue as we emerge on the other side of this crisis and as the transport industry adapts to the new reality, with the risk of further disadvantaging women in the sector”.

Passenger began by revising its Family Friendly Policies to assure they appealed to male and female candidates. Gender bias checkers ensured the language in job postings was inclusive and would attract diverse applicants and highlighted details that research shows are important to female candidates, such as salary range, medical benefits and working from home options as shown in Linkedin’s gender insights report.

Over the last 24 months, Passenger has been actively seeking to close the gender gap in their staff. Led by their COO, Matt Morgan, they began exploring the challenges faced and implementing good practices for recruiting and retaining more women (at all levels) at Passenger.

Passenger has brought its gender mix to 75% male / 25% female (from 90% / 10%) with 4 female hires at senior positions (including Manager and Head of Department level) in the last 12-months, putting the business above the national average for female workers within the transport sector. 

Matt explains “To understand the travel landscape, we have to understand everyday life – and the same should be said for recruiting. People are situated with a variety of family responsibilities, gendered roles, fears, joys and risk appetites – being conscious of that is part of making positive change. Diversity and inclusion will make the transport sector a better industry, and we encourage women to join the Passenger team and make a difference within this male-dominated field”.

Seeing key industry leadership roles being taken up by women, such as Jane Cole confirmed as Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) President for 2021, is a great indication of change, and Passenger hopes to lead by example – supporting women within their organisation to succeed at every step.

Banner image – UN Women/Yihui Yuan.

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