In her own words
As CEO of Yarra Trams, I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of the world’s largest tram network which involves operating up to 500 trams and 5,500 services a day. I am also responsible for the end-to-end customer experience, timetable development and delivery, rostering and looking at the overall performance of our network and identifying areas where we can improve for the next day. I lead a team of over 1,850 employees in the Operations division, including more than 1,400 tram drivers.
Earlier in my career, as a qualified lawyer, I had never considered a role in operations, but ever since I started working in this field, I haven’t looked back. Working in this role I feel like I am having a real impact on the lives of so many people, and that keeps me motivated every single day. This is from building a more diverse workforce that better reflects the city we serve, to improving the service we deliver to millions of Melburnians every single week.
To achieve a diverse workforce, you must firstly ensure people know about your industry, company, and job, feel confident that it’s something for them, and then actually put their names forward to be considered.
Having people put their hands up to be considered for a job is easier said than done, and required some significant changes for us, and that’s why I’m proud to have been instrumental in the introduction of part time driver jobs. This has been a real differentiator for us. It has moved the dial.
We knew that being able to offer part time employment would attract more women into the industry. However, this change to allow part-time driving roles required an Enterprise Agreement negotiation in 2019 and led to eight days of strikes by the unions. This was painful, but we fought incredibly hard for this, because it was a critical priority for the business, and we are starting to see the benefits in terms of our workforce.
One of my favourite statistics is that 36% of Yarra Trams’ part time driver workforce is female compared with the overall driver workforce of female participation of 27%. We recently did a recruitment campaign for concurrent full time and part time roles. A total of 19% of full-time applicants were female, compared to 40% of part time applicants.
Of course, I know that there’s still more for us to do as we continue building a diverse and inclusive workforce. This will include further investment in marketing and recruitment campaigns to attract applicants from every part of society, as well as significant investments in the infrastructure and safe facilities required to fully support every one of our employees. We’re still in the foothills and there’s a mountain yet to climb on diversity, but I’m committed to reaching the peak and leaving Yarra Trams better than when I found it.
Leading on the important
When you are in a leadership position you have a responsibility to prioritise the work that will make a genuine difference in the lives of those people who rely on you and stand up for what you believe in.
Industrial action and enterprise agreement negotiations can be difficult. However, as an organisation we saw the importance of part time roles in creating a truly diverse workforce. It’s the same with the provision of safe driver facilities. We have been operating trams in Melbourne for such a long time, and while the issue is well known a solution but never been pushed until recently because women had historically been such a small part of the workforce.
There is always something urgent to do that can distract you, but you must do the important as well. The important things that will make long-term positive impacts on an organisation.