Ireland must feed into a wider European effort to promote women in the transport industry, Fine Gael bye-election candidate and haulage company owner Verona Murphy has said.
Ms Murphy was appointed a Diversity Ambassador by the EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc last week. She also joined a high-level workshop on inclusive and gender balanced leadership for 21st century transport in Brussels.
Ms Murphy, a bye-election candidate in Wexford and President of the Irish Road Hauliers Association (IRHA), said she was honoured to be given the role, adding: 'It is excellent to meet with women leading in the transport industry from around Europe to discuss how we can promote better gender balance in the industry across the European Union.'
Women comprise only 22 per cent of the European transport workforce - which lags way behind other industries.
'Having a balanced workforce is widely recognised as having positive effects both on companies and on the wider sector, so we as an industry are missing a trick when it comes to the lack of women at the table,' Ms Murphy said.
'I believe one of the most important things we can do to change this trend is to ensure that stereotypes about the transport sector - whether that is haulage, public transport or aviation.'
Ms Murphy said: 'We need to teach our girls from a young age that these are viable and rewarding career options for them. When I started in the transport industry I was only 17-years-old, too young to identify a gender gap. But as the years went on, and I went from working for someone working within the industry to starting my own haulage company, I realised just how scarce woman were in the front-line driving end of things. When I became President of the IRHA, I began to understand that the perception of road haulage was that it was not a job for women and I decided to use my knowledge to set about creating a more positive image and bring a female perspective to it.'
Research has shown to date that where there is an equal gender balance, the working environment is much happier and more productive, she said.
'Companies engaging in diversity are finding their customers have a much more positive attitude, and it is my hope to build upon that attitude until we reach a place where it's forgotten that road haulage and truck driving was once thought of as a man's job. For my part I will be making a renewed effort to ensure that we are doing more to champion women in our field in Ireland and I would call on Transport Minister Shane Ross to identify a cohesive policy on how we can promote more women in transport.'