Women in fleet isn’t as uncommon as it used to be, but it’s still an area marked by few women. Here Fleet Auto News’ Caroline Falls talks with Karen Ison, fleet and procurement project officer at Eurobodalla Shire Council, on the south coast of New South Wales. Ison was among several women at the Fleet Management conference run earlier this year by the Institute for Public Works Engineers Australasia (IPWEA).
FAN: How did you come to be involved in fleet management? What path got you here?
ISON: It wasn’t the traditional way that’s for sure! I have an administrative background, specifically in human resources and payroll, none of which gave me any real advantage to gaining a position in fleet. However, the thing that I did have was strong existing internal relationships across the whole organisation and an interest in the industry!
FAN: What is the prevalence of women in the fleet industry?
ISON: It’s unfortunate, but in my experience women in fleet are few and far between. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a negative aspect of the industry, it’s just typically not a profession that attracts a high level of interest by women. Just like women are more prominent in industries such as child and health care, men are more prominent in the fleet industry.
FAN: How has this changed over time?
ISON: In the past the traditional career path for a fleet manager was forged from a mechanical background. However, times are definitely changing and there seems to be a shift in the industry towards applicants who have more of a strategic planning and analytical background rather than technical. With the advances in vehicle/plant manufacturing, technology and safety, the focus has shifted from the traditional mechanical background. The modern fleet manager’s role involves reducing operating costs, managing budgets, implementing strategies to reduce fuel consumption/emissions, streamlining processes and developing policies around sustainability.
FAN: Is there any special network for women in fleet that you know of?
ISON: There are a lot of forums and networking opportunities available within the fleet industry but none specific to women that I’m aware of. If there are, I’d love some details!
FAN: What is attractive about the industry for you?
ISON: The continuous advancement! It’s an exciting time to be involved in the fleet industry. We are being forced to consider a future involving technological advances that still seem too ‘far-fetched’ to believe (think driverless cars) but the reality is, they are just around the corner! Once upon a time, it was almost inconceivable that we’d have a fleet consisting of hybrid or electric vehicles, that reality came quick. Our future reality will mean even bigger changes and they will come quickly — how exciting to play a small part in that.
FAN: Do you think there may be any overt or unconscious bias affecting women in the industry?
ISON: This is a difficult question to answer because whilst I have experienced some bias against woman in fleet, I have also experienced the complete opposite. I have always found the best way to gain respect and recognition is by knowing what you’re talking about!