2016 cover stories: The Gender Gap

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi

Diversity is the future of transport and logistics. Without a varied and multi-skilled team, the sector’s future is in jeopardy

2016 cover stories: The Gender Gap
Leaders from the country’s forward-thinking logistics companies share their initiatives.


The gender gap is hopelessly static within the industry right now. For the last decade, women’s participation rate has increased by a mere per cent.

The logistics industry represents 8.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), adding more than $130 billion to the Australian economy, employing more than 1 million people across the sector but only one in five are females.

There are four times more male managers than female managers, with women making up less than 15 per cent of directors on transport company boards.

The calendar says it’s 2015, but hard to believe it.

Industry leaders, mostly females, gathered at the Australian Logistics Council’s (ALC) inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Summit in Melbourne in November to find ways of attracting women to leadership roles.

They want administration workers shifted to operations as only 16 per cent of females are at the front line. So, more truck drivers and forklift operators are needed.

Stereotyping is one of the reasons behind the stark gender gap, the summit was told.

The effects of gender-based labelling can be devastating, potentially undermining women’s capacity to lead, and pose challenges to their career advancement.

Reserve Bank of Australia board member Kathryn Fagg, who was Linfox’s corporate development president and whose executive career includes senior business leadership roles in logistics, manufacturing and banking, says "progress breeds more progress" and having women at the top will only attract and retain more women.

Referring to recent research conducted by advocacy group Chief Executive Women (CEW) of its members, she says women are as ambitious as men but the majority don’t see their careers progressing at the same rate as men’s.


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Kathryn Fagg, left, and Nicola Wakefield Evans believe stereotyping causes gender gap.


That is due to two factors; competing priorities for women, such as childcare and time management, and different styles within workplace.

"When you ask men what is holding women back, 60 per cent of them believe it is due to competing priorities," Fagg says.

"However, when you ask women what is holding them back, 80 per cent believe it is due to their style not being valued.

"That is a stark difference; women are speaking very clearly it is the culture and opportunities we are seeing in operating styles in our organisations holding them back rather than the fact they have other things they want to focus their attention on."

Fagg was last year involved in appointing Kylie Fraser as CEO of beverage carrier BevChain, which is a joint venture between Linfox and the Lion Group.

Three CEO roles within Linfox’s logistics business are currently being held by women.

"I must say, if Linfox can do that, then many people can make such a shift in a relatively short period of time because, even though I absolutely understand this is the first step we need to move quickly and other industries are moving quickly, there’s a lot of competition for the top talent out there."

To make a significant and sustainable change, Fagg believes companies should refer to The Leadership Shadow management model, designed by a group of Australian CEOs and led by the sex discrimination commissioner on the practices they each introduced in their organisations to accelerate women’s advancement.

"The model looks at what do I say, how do I act, what do I prioritise and how do I measure," Fagg adds. "There’s no rocket science to this; the leader and the senior team in any organisation need to look to actively sponsor, not just mentor, women into greater opportunities and into more senior roles."


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Kathryn Fagg says culture and opportunities within organisations are holding women back.




Having women on Toll’s recruitment list has changed the way the company recruits at the senior level, non-executive director of Toll Holdings, Lend Lease, BUPA Australia and Macquire and member of CEW Nicola Wakefield Evans says.

"In Toll [change] came through an initiative our CEO brought a couple of years ago where every job had to have women on the recruitment list — that’s made a big difference in the way we recruit at the senior level of organisation," Wakefield Evans says.

"The issue for Toll and everybody within the industry is that we have to do that from the bottom up as well, we have to get women to be forklift drivers as well as bringing more women into senior roles."

With stereotyping influencing thinking and perceptions based on objective observations, the transport and logistics industry needs to break the spell of typecasting or continue losing the vital talent-pool, she adds.

Wakefield Evans says it’s time company boards were no longer seen as "boys clubs".

"The industry is perceived to be a male-dominated industry with very few opportunities.

"Perception and reality are often not the same, I think one of the issues is to change that perception and to look at other industries like the banking, construction and legal industries — those have done some big stuff like scholarships for women in people training and diversity.

"Sixty-five per cent of law graduates are women; there’s been a huge shift in getting more women into the legal industry," she adds.

"The property construction industry this year has announced an enormous amount of scholarships for women around Australia and those are the things we need to do.

"We also have to showcase the success stories and companies being better at telling the world what opportunities women have in their own companies.

"I’ve had a look at the top logistics companies and you really can’t find a lot of stories about gender diversity and inclusiveness on their websites."

To make a change, leaders need to start sharing information between organisations and talk to like-minded people, she adds.

"The benefit of sharing a problem is finding other women in similar types of situations and having a conversation — you’ll find you’ll pick up ideas quickly.

"We have to change the way leaders talk about gender and inclusiveness and diversity, once you start doing you start to quite quickly change perception."


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Nicola Wakefield Evans says having women on Toll’s recruitment list changed the way the company recruits.


Toll managing director Brian Kruger says gender equity is the key to right culture.

Only 11 per cent of its management positions globally are held by women.

Of all the Toll employees in more than 50 countries across the world, just 24 per cent are women.

"Toll runs 27 business units and we can measure gender equity through financial performance," Kruger says.

"You will not believe the correlation between those parts of our business that do better on gender equity and their performance financially, the correlation between safety performance and business performance across our business is just amazing, and it’s a critical driver.

"We’ve got some talented women in our organisation who I don’t think are able to be the best they can be in the environment we’ve got in Toll at the moment.

"One of our jobs as leaders is to create an environment where all of our people can be the best they can be; it’s about making sure we’ve got room for our female leaders to grow."

He says gender equity is not a cost but an investment to a company and it is no secret the logistics industry is a ‘blokey’ business.

"You can do a lot of work around policies but if you don’t do the work on culture to make the woman feel comfortable in her work environment, she won’t last," he adds.

"The biggest challenge we’ve got at Toll is about the blokey culture and changing that so it is more inclusive and more respecting of women. It’s a challenge.

"For us, this is a global issue; we need to do more to help sponsor women progress through organisations.

"Flexible work is also an issue for us and dealing with every-day sexism that’s prevalent in our industry."

Little things such as challenging suppliers on performance can also make a change, he adds.



Rail freight operator Aurizon is driving diversity thanks to its Male Championships of Change group.

The group is teaching men about diversity and equality as the traditionally male, blue-collar workforce is made up of only 14 per cent women.     

Aurizon’s coal service delivery vice president Ed Mckeiver says 102 babies were born to employees at the company last year but only two men took parental leave.

"To get that trust and respect of the workforce you need four pillars of respect; language, voluntary use, mandatory use, and valuing difference," Mckeiver says.

"From that flows inclusiveness.

"To change the mindset of those men, we have realised we need to come up with a way where senior male leaders sign up to a process that influences and changes male-thinking behaviour.

"A big part of that is developing and calling out behaviour when it occurs because it’s largely invisible and very sticky."

It recently took home the gender equity in the workplace award at Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Inclusion and Diversity Awards.

Aurizon has been recognised for implementing a range of initiatives derived from executive-led decisions, such as setting a target of 30 per cent female workforce participation by 2019.


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Aurizon’s company workplace initiatives are in the limelight with Ed Mckeiver, centre, accepting the AHRI gender equity award.


Johnson & Johnson Medical managing director Gavin Fox-Smith says peak bodies have a role to play in getting the right messages across.

Its company adopted a board diversity statement two years ago that led to a record number of female directors.

"If you consciously don’t include women, the system consciously excludes them," Fox-Smith says. "It’s a really fundamental thought-process of what your role as a leader is in the organisation."

Northern Stevedoring Services general manager Juliette Sperber says gender gap leads to groupthink — a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony results in irrational decision-making.

"We have a real issue with low turnover in stevedoring; jobs just don’t open up and people are there for 20 years," Sperber says.

"What I say to my managers when they come to me asking for a couple of truck drivers, I ask them to sit down and do the sums of the guys they employ and what they’re costing the organisation.

"Women make fewer mistakes in machinery and the cost in machinery is huge. If you have more women drivers creating less damage and less down time, it’s a huge impact on the organisation."

Although government and education institutions could do more to close the gap, the delegates agreed the industry was most responsible in improving diversity.

"Where the real change happens, where the rubber hits the road, is in the organisation that employs," National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) national director Louise Weine says.

"It’s only through pragmatic and practical actions taken by every single leader from a senior leader to middle management to the front line leader — it’s those practical, pragmatic things that make the biggest difference.

"You can have all the policies in the world and all the regulation, it’s only the real stuff that happens every day that will change what’s happening," she adds.

"NAWO encourages organisations to think laterally when recruiting into key positions.

"It must carefully consider the pitch of their advertisement and the way it briefs recruitment consultants in order to attract women.

"The executive teams and boards need to prioritise and measure progress, the executives need to role model behaviours of the inclusive culture they want to build."

Governance Institute of Australia policy and publishing national director Judith Fox says companies need to treat diversity as a business strategy.

"If you don’t have the CEO’s commitment then nothing changes," Fox says.

"Boards need to put in KPIs and the CEO needs to put in KPIs into performance plans; it needs to be treated as a major business strategy as this is still seen as a social women’s issue," she adds.


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ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff. 


The ALC has released an action plan to tackle diversity issues over the next 12 months.

The action plan pledges the organisation to:

  • work with members to support secondments between companies to promote greater diversity
  • provide leadership on promoting the logistics industry as a positive employment of choice for women
  • develop a diversity policy, including board representation, panel pledges and branding
  • make available links to relevant online tests to determine levels of unconscious bias within organisations
  • share positive learning among industry to help support and retain a diverse workforce
  • investigate ways to ‘build the brand’ to attract a broader and more diverse applicant pool
  • actively promote positive diversity and inclusiveness stories/case studies across the industry
  • examine ways to seek greater women representation in male dominated roles, and barriers associated with their current education/assessment requirements
  • investigate a scholarship/sponsorship/internship/award program to promote greater diversity
  • promote ‘gender neutral’ advertising principles and practices
  • support industry efforts to highlight educational opportunities and requirements for the logistics industry
  • investigate research opportunities to better understand why women are leaving the logistics industry




Diversity and inclusion is integral to McAleese Group’s culture.

The number of women in senior leadership positions is up by 18 per cent thanks to the company’s ‘make it happen’ attitude.

The board had set measurable objectives for achieving gender diversity, with the number of females in senior roles exceeding the board’s objective a year ahead of schedule.

It has also gained a woman on the board, with Kerry Gleeson becoming an independent non-executive director.

"At McAleese Group, we view people as our most precious asset," the company says.

"We understand the importance of fostering a work environment that is responsive to the changing needs of today’s workforce.

"We aim to create a workplace that is fair and inclusive in order to attract and retain the best people to do the job.

"Diversity and inclusion are integral to our culture."



"Jobs don’t fall out of trees and promotions don’t fall out of trees — they happen for a reason and you’ve got to turn yourself into being a lot more proactive," Toll’s Nicola Wakefield Evans says.

The mother of four’s career took a turn when she was offered to lead an Australian law firm in Hong Kong.

"I had no idea why I was picked; husband was working full-time, there were four children and when they offered it to me I thought it was fantastic and I had never looked back," Wakefield Evans says.

"The reason I reached the Toll board was partly because I run a business in Asia; at the time I felt I was taking a huge step, it was into the unknown, moving countries and dealing with China and offices worldwide.

"I’m not a believer in luck; I’m a believer in recruiting the right people at a right time of your life."

Kathryn Fagg, who joined ANZ in 1993, was always clear to her management that she wanted to run a business.

"The most important thing I did when I joined the ANZ bank was in the recruitment process I was very clear all the way up to the CEO at the bank level saying what I really want to do is run a business," Fagg says.

"In two years’ time they gave me that opportunity and getting that operational experience was absolutely critical to my career."



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