Jo Field is president of Women in Transport, a not-for-profit that empowers women in the industry to maximise their potential. Jo is also the founder and managing director of JFG Communications, a boutique agency specialising in stakeholder engagement, public affairs and gender diversity for the transport and infrastructure sectors. Before this, Jo was head of campaigns, communications and engagement at Transport for London.
“Women make up 47% of the UK workforce, yet remain underrepresented in the transport sector, accounting for only 20% of workers. We believe that by working together, we can promote a diverse and strong transport workforce that supports UK growth.”
Igniting the spark
I’ve worked in transport for over 15 years, but when I first joined the industry, a lack of diversity wasn’t on my radar. It was only when I returned to work after the birth of my second child that I became aware of the issue. I was sleep-deprived and felt I wasn’t performing at my best so I looked for peers and mentors who I could turn to for support.
My experience made me realise that, while there are some fantastic role models and leaders in the industry who are women, there aren’t nearly enough. That was the catalyst that sparked me to campaign for change and set me on a mission to improve gender balance in the transport industry and beyond.
Sharpening political focus
I first joined the Board of Women in Transport in 2015, and was elected president in May last year. Since then, I have been consulting and engaging with our members to shape our vision, plans and future service offering for the coming months and years.
It’s also great to remain so heavily involved with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Transport. I worked with parliamentarians to help set up this group back in 2016 to sharpen political focus on the issue of gender balance in the transport workforce. Having links into parliament through the APPG has enabled us to share our members’ views far and wide, and I want to make sure we can build on this during the course of my presidency.
Supporting our members through the pandemic and beyond
Almost as soon as the pandemic struck, we realised how vital it was that Women in Transport could continue providing our support to our members as a professional network. We switched our events offering online and came up with new and different ways to bring our members together virtually.
On International Women’s Day last year, we published a whitepaper looking at ‘Gender perceptions and experiences working in transport’. This study highlighted some of our members’ experiences during the pandemic. Some of our members were at the forefront of keeping the country moving, while others were furloughed or had to adapt to juggling working from home and homeschooling.
As we recover from the pandemic, transport is once again at the forefront as we encourage customers back onto the network. Many of the women we surveyed felt the pandemic provided an opportunity for travel behaviour to change towards an increase in active and sustainable travel.
Also, new infrastructure like HS2 is so important in creating jobs to aid the economic recovery, so there has never been a more important time to ensure gender diversity is central to policymaking and that a gender-balanced workforce is involved in the planning, design, construction and delivery of transport services.
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport
As Secretariat to the APPG for Women in Transport, we’re running an event for our members on International Women’s Day entitled ‘Transport’s gender challenge and the future of the industry’. The event will feature speeches from key parliamentarians and leading industry figures from across transport’s many sectors. The event is designed to help highlight the impact of women’s underrepresentation across the industry, and how we can navigate towards a more equitable and sustainable industry.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias and I think this ties in really well with Women in Transport’s ethos as a not-for-profit organisation that empowers women in the industry to maximise their potential.
We’re being encouraged to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality. Women make up 47% of the UK workforce, yet remain underrepresented in the transport sector, accounting for only 20% of workers. We believe that by working together, we can promote a diverse and strong transport workforce that supports UK growth.
Calling Womanthology readers!
We would welcome any Womanthology readers who have an interest in transport to join our organisation – everyone is welcome to join, and we would also love to hear from anyone who may be interested in helping us launch new hubs.
Coming up next
Last year we 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 the start of a network of women leaders and programme alumni who will support each other to champion diversity and create change.
We have also recently created new regional hubs across the UK, in areas such as Scotland, and the North West. The creation of our regional hubs is helping us to build on the strengths and unique characteristics of the sector in each specific region as well as host more tailored regional events. I’m excited to expand our reach and enable more women and men across the country to benefit from our services.