Will ‘She’s RHA’ woo women into the transport industry?

Mar 10 | 2016

Nikki Gee from The Mover magazine voices her opinion on the latest idea from the RHA.

Now I’m not one to get hot under the collar about press releases coming into the office at The Mover, but when one arrived from the Road Haulage Association entitled ‘RHA has the wit to woo women’, I felt I just had to make a comment. The story was about a new initiative conceived by one of the RHA’s female Board members, Lesley O’Brien, called ‘She’s RHA’ aimed at encouraging more women to work in the transport industry.  For a start I found the title of the release rather patronising, and ‘She’s RHA’ even more so. What does it mean anyway? It sounds like a medical condition. 

Here’s an extract from the story: 

The Road Haulage Association is launching She’s RHA, designed to address the acute shortage of women in road transport. The industry has a workforce of 2.2 million of which just 2 per cent are women. As a result, the haulage sector misses out on a wealth of diverse talent and performance benefits that women can provide.  

Lesley O’Brien said, “She’s RHA will encourage, support, mentor and empower women of all ages, skill sets and experience. We need to inspire women to choose a career in transport. I am delighted that the RHA recognises the contribution that women can make and has taken the initiative to work with its members to facilitate a dynamic support network through She’s RHA.” 

There may well be only 2% of women working in the transport industry but quite why the RHA feels that a special ‘ladies only’ section would encourage more to join I don’t know.  After all there are plenty of successful female members of the RHA who seem to get along perfectly well and as far as I know nobody has ever been turned away because of their gender. Anyway, we’re all supposed to be equal aren’t we?  

I contacted the Road Haulage Association and put the following questions to them. I received this reply from their PR Executive, Haris Khan.  

What is She’s RHA?
She’s RHA is about celebrating women in haulage by providing a platform where women can re-connect and empower themselves within the industry. 

Will it be an online forum, regular meetings, etc. or a combination of things? 
It will consist of networking events, mentoring programmes, and will publicise literature about women in haulage. 

Was the initiative conceived because women have asked the RHA for a women’s group?
Yes, the concept of She’s RHA grew from something as simple as arranging small ‘get- togethers’ usually a coffee or lunch, this would be used to discuss work, share ideas and help solve any industry related issues. 

What does the RHA believe that women in particular can bring to the transport industry? Better decision making, research suggests having three or more women on the Board changes boardroom culture, leading to greater scrutiny, inclusion and collaboration, with more questions asked and clearer information given.  

Why does the RHA believe that the transport industry is a good industry for women? 
The haulage sector is a great place for women to work because:

  • It can accommodate flexible working hours 

  • It’s clean, environmentally friendly vehicles 

  • Work can be office-based or cab-based 

  • IT-led 

  • Suits solitary or collaborative working 

Of course, I work for a magazine rather the on the front line of the moving industry so I invited a number of prominent women in the moving business to comment on the RHA’s idea. Only two responded, and both were positive about the initiative, so maybe I’ve completely missed the point. 

Emma Lanman from Van Girls said: “I'm really pleased to see the RHA taking this positive action to offer a space for women in the industry to support each other with the longer term aim of encouraging more women. I think there are two reasons why this is important. Firstly, more women will be good for the industry, both economically, and in terms of experience for the customers, particularly in the removals sector. Secondly, making a traditionally male dominated industry more welcoming for women wanting to work in that area is vital for giving women the opportunities they deserve.” 

Emma continued: “Once there are visibly more women in this industry they can serve as role models, showcasing different careers for young girls to aspire to and opening up the opportunities for the women of the future to be broader than gender norms usually promote. Countless removals companies have come to us at Van Girls, wanting us to subcontract for them as they recognise that having women as part of a removal crew improves the customer experience, in many cases, and puts them at ease.” 

Caroline Mason from John Mason International said: “I think it’s a very positive initiative, particularly the mentoring part. Although I would like to think such groups aren’t needed, the facts speak for themselves and the industry could benefit from more women. I think Women on the Move (FIDI) is great and their events are usually very well supported, suggesting that there is a need for this type of group. I think that these types of groups are very inspirational, allowing women to meet potential role models which is very important.”  

Caroline added: 
“I agree that the best person for the job is all that matters but it’s difficult to get more of a balance if there aren’t as many female applicants for certain roles. This type of initiative encourages women to consider working in the industry and that they will be welcomed if they choose this type of work - which I think is a positive thing.”  

So, what do you think?  Is She’s RHA going to encourage more women to get into transport, and more particularly the moving industry, or is it sexist and patronising and something they can manage perfectly well without?