In early 2012, Metro Trains applied for an exemption from the Victorian Equal Opportunity laws to advertise for female train drivers. They did this in an attempt to correct an imbalance in genders amongst train drivers. (Which has so far been very successful) The exemption allowed for them to target advertisements towards women, but they could in no way discriminate during the assessment or hiring process. Most train drivers at Metro saw no problem with this. These were future colleagues, and so long as only the best applicants came in to join them, there was no problem. The Herald Sun’s Beverley O’Conner reported in ‘Women driving change at Metro’
“…you’ll be surprised to hear the Rail, Tram and Bus Union seems to have a problem with this. Surely with myki and other problems, the union’s Marc Marotta has got bigger issues to worry about amongst his members than giving women a fair go. But no, he rather cynically chooses to believe that Metro has an ulterior motive behind the recruitment drive – and that’s trying to improve its image.”
With all that we have seen from MTM since, maybe Marc Marotta’s cynicism wasn’t really all that misplaced? Beverley O’Conner also wrote
“Admittedly there are some tensions between Metro and some of its veteran drivers, mostly men, as it pushes them over work practices and greater efficiencies. And women should not be used as a pawn in that game. No woman wants a job handed to her just because she’s a woman. But by the same token women should not be held back just because there are a cranky few who don’t want to move with the times.”
Metro Trains went all out in their advertising:
“No Woman wants a job handed to her just because she’s a woman.”
Metro Discrimination at Work
More than one man who applied for work as a train driver at that time got put onto ‘waiting lists’. Some were even told by Metro’s HR department that despite their high scores (some reported that they scored 95% on tests) Metro had to put more women through the assessment centers before they could get to them. MTM received an exemption for advertising, not an exemption to discriminate during the hiring process. Most applicants refused to complain about their treatment, due to their belief that it would ruin their chances of getting the job, despite sitting on a ‘waiting list’ for over a year. In the Herald Sun article ‘Women driving change at Metro’ they make mention that women made up 30% of applicants. You have to wonder then, how did the ratio of women to men as trainee train drivers ended up 49 to 47 as reported in The Age ‘Metro on Track for More Women Behind the Wheel’ if MTM were not allowed to discriminate in their hiring process.
Women made up 30% of Applicants but over 50% of hired trainees.
The Hypocrisy of Metro Management
When Metro Trains Melbourne began to spruik their new positive discrimination policy in their employee newsletter they published an interesting photograph. It depicted Senior Management and the Board of Directors celebrating the new advertising campaign. We could not find the original, but this adjusted picture sums everything up nicely:
Positive Discrimination or a tactic to promote a more ‘pliable’ workforce?
While it is admirable that MTM attempt to correct an imbalance amongst their workforce and correct the commonly perceived belief that driving trains is a ‘mans job’; You can’t help but wonder whether the change was made by MTM management in an effort to get a more ‘pliable’ workforce. Just as train driving was perceived to be a ‘mans job’, the same perception often sees women as being ‘easier to manage’ and ‘more willing to comply with management demands’. Would the following example of bullying and harassment have been made against a male train driver? Why were TWO male MTM managers allegedly sent to bully and intimidate a female train driver whilst she was off work injured and in public place? Injured Metro Train Drivers Being Intimidated If it was an attempt to get a more pliable workforce, it may have backfired spectacularly. Just ask managers of traditionally female dominated occupations like nursing or teaching. Women can be just as militantly unionist as men.
Women as Train Drivers
There is no doubt that gender plays no role in a person’s ability to drive a train (Despite Tony Abbott’s assurances that “…it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”). This article doesn’t question the ability of women to drive trains or to work in any industry, merely we question whether the women in the industry were handed the jobs just because they are women. We also want to question when MTM will lead by example and ensure that there is equal representation in their management structure and on their board of directors?
MTM try it again with a different grade.
Just recently MTM, with little fanfare, began advertising for women to apply as Authorised Officers. There are no videos, no stories in the Herald Sun… just a quiet advertisement on the Metro Trains Careers Website.
Once again there is an exemption to the Victorian Equal Opportunity laws and once again it only applies to advertising. It remains to be seen whether MTM will allow acceptable Male applicants to sit on the sidelines while female applicants are “handed a job just because they are women.”