Thursday 22nd Nov, 2018

ALC Forum 2018 panel talks diversity in the industry

Photo: Rose Elphick-Darling, Megan McCracken, Paul Scurrah and Jane Lavender-Baker; credit Ian Ackerman
Photo: Rose Elphick-Darling, Megan McCracken, Paul Scurrah and Jane Lavender-Baker; credit Ian Ackerman

DIVERSITY is an issue in the transport and logistics sector, with just over a quarter of roles in the transport, postal and warehousing sector held by females.

At the Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018, a panel was convened to discuss the issue, which panel members agreed has real consequences for companies’ bottom lines.

Deakin University research fellow, Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics, Rose Elphick-Darling kicked off the session by defining diversity.

“The Diversity Council of Australia talks about diversity as people who are not like ‘us’, whoever ‘us’ is,” she said.

“In our industry, I guess we’d define that as really largely as not male, as we are officially a male-dominated industry, as is resource industry and agriculture.”

She said diversity encompasses gender, culture, religion, disability, age, LGBTIQ, among other things.

“Inclusion occurred when a diversity of people – different ages, different backgrounds, different genders – feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and an contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation,” Ms Elphick-Darling said.

“It’s about welcoming the potential of those who are not the prevailing profile in our workforce.”

Ms Elphick-Darling went on, citing statistics on diversity in the transport, postal and warehousing sector: 26% of full-time staff is female, the gender pay-gap is 20.6%, but adding superannuation and other benefits of employment the pay-gap increases to 23.8%.

“Do you know how much money that is based on 2016-17 average wages?” she asked.

“It’s $26,835 less than our male counterparts.”

She said few females made it into higher management roles in the industry, with 20.6% of key management roles held by women and just 4.5% of chief executives in the transport, postal and warehousing sector being female.

“Women are concentrated in clerical roles in our industry,” she said.

“Someone’s got to do it; 61% of the admin and clerical roles are held by females.”

Arc Infrastructure general manager, safety people and corporate affairs, Megan McCracken spoke next, saying the problem with diversity was complex and multi-faceted, with one outstanding factor being the typical business structure was designed more than a century ago.

“The structure of our businesses is for a very different world in a time long ago,” she said.

It was possible, but difficult for people from diverse backgrounds to thrive in the business environment, said Ms McCracken, who is also chair of the ALC’s people committee.

“But, change is in the wind,” she said.

“In a world where things are accelerating the way things are, we have no choice – it’s going to be the companies that actually harness diverse thinking and cross-disciplinary functions that are going to be the ones that will succeed.”

Ms McCracken continued, speaking about findings of a recent Harvard Business Review survey, which showed a strong correlation between diversity and innovation over the 1700 companies surveyed.

“The more dimensions of diversity the companies had – by dimensions I mean gender, age, ethnic diversity – the stronger the diversity,” she said.

“And, every single study I read on the economics of diversity says the same thing.

“They conclude that organisations that embrace a diverse workforce, especially in its leadership, have shown significant benefits to the bottom line – I’m not talking about that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from doing the right thing, I’m talking about the kind of bottom line impact that every CEO in this room would be proud of.”

Ms McCracken said a mindset around diversity provided a company with access to a talent pool and ideas and thinking that was otherwise unavailable.

“It gives you an advantage, and you would be crazy not to make it a pillar of your company strategy,” she said.

DP World Australia managing director and CEO Paul Scurrah said everyone in the room should be embarrassed about the statistics about diversity in the industry.

“It’s a very one-dimensional industry,” he said.

“One of the biggest challenges we have in the industry is what a lot of people describe as ‘unconscious bias’ – it’s ingrained through years and years of conditioning, particularly for men, and we’ve got to change that.”

Australian Rail Track Corporation group executive, corporate affairs and people, Jane Lavender-Baker spoke about her company’s drive towards diversity with a local angle.

“In light of ARTC’s role in delivering the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail line, is we have a huge regional footprint as an employer,” she said.

“We have teams spread out across a multitude of states, and if we’re looking at the task ahead of us in constructing and building Inland Rail, there is a huge opportunity for us to partner with the communities along that alignment in job opportunities, in economic development, and ensuring that the workforces that we set up along that alignment, actually reflect the communities that are there around them as well.”

While the logistics industry undoubtedly has its work cut out for it in terms of diversity, it is also true there are those who are determined to tackle the problem head-on.

With their hard work, perhaps the logistics industry of the future will look a lot different than today, and perhaps it’ll be more innovative as a result.

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