Investing in training and personal development opportunities for women
Formal and informal learning opportunities
Supporting women to participate in training and skills development is a key way to increase the variety of roles accessible to women in the transport and logistics industry, especially in jobs typically dominated by males. This includes increasing the availability of management training to support women with the progression to more senior roles.
Opportunities should ideally include formal learning, such as structured training courses and workshops, as well as informal learning through existing employees sharing knowledge and experience (e.g. through mentoring, job shadowing or workplace demonstrations).
Targeted women’s development programs can also greatly assist with increasing confidence and encouraging reflection regarding preferences for career pathways. Many women report that they are more at ease acquiring and practising new skills in women-only environments. Women-only environments also allow participants to explore some of the social and organisational factors in career progression that are often related to gender. In so doing, they increase their ability to navigate their own careers successfully, to identify and overcome personal and professional challenges, and to take responsibility for their own growth and development.
Within South Australia there are active chapters of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, Australia and Transport Women Australia. These associations link female workers in the industry and strive to foster networking and educational opportunities for women in the Industry.
Other informal learning opportunities exist in new and exciting ways. For example “Women in Procurement, Supply Chain and Logistics”, a LinkedIn group, provides a forum for its members to share their ideas, metrics, positions advancement, successes, failures, job advice and suggestions, coaching and mentoring related to the industry.
Training should be discussed as a part of an employee’s annual performance review and/or as opportunities arise. It is also important to offer flexibility in the time and location of training (e.g. offering during work hours) to make it accessible to employees who have family responsibilities). In all cases, leaders should ensure that training opportunities are equally promoted to male and female employees, including employees who may be working part time.
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A mentoring program can be beneficial for women new to the organisation, new to a job role or in cases where the employee may be wishing to explore opportunities in other sections of the business.
The role of the mentor is to assist the mentee with developing specific skills and knowledge to support with personal and professional growth. This involves the mentor asking questions and challenging assumptions while providing guidance and encouragement.
Mentoring offers a safe environment where the mentee can openly discuss questions, opportunities and concerns in a confidential environment. Benefits can also include the mentor sharing resources and networks, such as through inviting the mentee along to meetings. In most cases the mentor may be a current employee (although not the employee’s line manager), however it is also possible to have mentors and mentor programs external to the organisation.
Peer mentoring groups also provide the opportunity for small groups to pose questions and share experiences in a facilitated forum that encourages enquiry and self-directed learning.
Training programs and consultants are available to assist organisations with establishing a formal mentoring program which can support with establishing clarity around the role of a mentor and mentee and strategies for how to maximise the benefits of a mentoring relationship.
There are Australian-wide opportunities for women to access professional mentoring programs focused on transport and logistics. Women Moving Forward Mentoring Program has had over 450 women representing over 130 companies throughout Australia take part, making the mentoring program one of the largest and most effective mentoring programs for women.
“It can be of great benefit to have a mentor and supporter. My first manager at World Courier is someone I consider a mentor and to this day we still stay in contact, grab the occasional coffee and bounce ideas off each other.”
Rebecca Pearce – National Business Development Manager, World Courier
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Coaching supports employees with increasing confidence and improving performance through setting goals and actions to achieve positive change.
Professional coaches use a range of questioning techniques and models to support employees to explore a variety of options to identify solutions and actions to achieve defined goals. Coaches encourage a commitment to action and hold clients accountable for achieving outcomes. Coaching can be particularly effective when undertaken in conjunction with the employee development and career planning process.
The coaching process is underpinned by the philosophy that the coach’s role is to support the client to discover his/her own solutions to his/her challenges and problems, rather than to provide direct advice. This is the essential difference between coaching and mentoring,
There are coaches who specialise in working with women, including in leadership and executive roles.
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Access to networking opportunities
In a business context, networking involves interacting with others to exchange information and expand professional contacts.
Within an organisation, networking can support female employees with raising awareness of their skills, experience and career aspirations, increasing an understanding of different sections of the business, identifying new job opportunities, as well as assisting with strengthening relationships with colleagues and leaders in other areas of the business.
Networking externally offers opportunities to exchange industry best practice, learn new skills and establish a group of contacts that can be accessed for support in addressing challenges or harnessing new opportunities as they arise.
Increasingly women-focused networking groups are being established, especially in male-dominated industries. Such groups provide an opportunity for female employees to share experiences of working in the industry, and discuss opportunities for personal and professional development. Examples in the Transport and Logistics Industry include Women in Aviation/Aerospace Australia, Transport Women Australia and Women in Supply Chain. Examples of steps that can be taken to increase networking opportunities for women include:
- ensuring female employees are invited and encouraged to attend work related activities, such as conferences, industry meetings etc.
- providing a buddy system for new employees to assist women with building networks and relationships across the organisation
- providing opportunities for women to attend meetings in different sections/departments to support with increasing their understanding of the business and raising their profile
- giving consideration to the type, timing and location of work social functions to ensure that part time employees and/or employees with family responsibilities are able to attend
- supporting female employees to attend women only networking functions.
“Sometimes you may only be one of two females at certain functions but you are never made to feel aware or any different from the other attendees”
Kim Carningham, General Manager SA & WA, Vanguard Logistics Services
Questions for reflection: