Equality without Exception

Jacquelene Brotherton’s varied and multifaceted career in the commercial transport industry is a living embodiment of the equality of opportunity often preached about as conceptual diversity in the corporate sphere. Her story is one of compassion, integrity and rare praxis.

After more than 50 years in road transport, Jacquelene Brotherton continues to provide support for many of its people and sectors, drawing upon her own considerable experiences in order to formulate appropriate advice.

Jacquelene has always championed advancing women’s involvement in various aspects of the transport industry, yet to describe her as a feminist would be inaccurate as she has consistently taken a more inclusive approach to gender equality in the workplace and consequentially joined the Board of the Australian Gender Equality Commission in late 2020.

“Men can suffer inequality, too,” Jacquelene says. “We cannot demonise men. In any industry women deserve to feel safe and be able to walk into a facility where there are locks on doors of the toilet or the shower and adequate lighting. I’ve been to a saleyard facility where there was no door on the shower at all and that’s unacceptable for a men’s facility as well.”

Growing up in the western regions of Queensland and New South Wales, it always seemed inevitable that Jacquelene would gravitate to the livestock transport sector and she fulfilled various roles with several companies including Bruce Dickenson Transport, Lewington’s Transport, and Fraser’s Livestock Transport.

Jacquelene Brotherton.

In 2007, Jacquelene became Transport Manager of Oxford Cold Storage, remaining in a similar role when the company became part of the US-based Lineage Logistics organisation in mid-2020.

The roles she undertakes includes Chain of Responsibility compliance, stakeholder engagement, client relationship management, and corporate social responsibility.

“I asked to get into operations and my boss at the time was more than happy to give me a crack at it,” she says. “To be in operations you need to be people oriented and adaptable, and you need to earn the other employees’ respect and also to give it back in return.”

For women and men considering a move into the sphere of transport operations Jacquelene has some sage advice.

“When in an operational role it’s better to ask drivers to perform tasks, rather than tell them to,” she says. “Don’t play favourites. There is nothing in an operational role that will turn people against you faster than if you play favourites. Also, have your own boundaries and don’t try to be one of the ‘boys’.”

Jacquelene’s advice to younger people wishing to enter the industry, especially females, is to learn anything you can from anyone they can: truck drivers, forklift operators, managers.

“There is nothing I can stress more than to find a mentor. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, mentors are at the heart of what can happen and if possible have more than one,” she says.

“Also, [to have] a sponsor who will speak up for you when roles are coming up or when you want to move into a new role. And if you get a role that you can’t handle don’t leave because you don’t like it. Find somebody to talk it through with.”

Jacquelene follows her own mantra of ‘network, network, network’ and is involved with many industry associations both in Australia and in the United States where she is a member of the Women in Trucking (USA) Content Advisory Council. Jacquelene regards her US involvements as very worthwhile.

“It’s been really good to do this. Going over there opens your eyes to other opportunities and there are lot of good people who want to network. I’ve been able to work on some really important projects,” she says.

The international activities are all in Jacquelene’s own time and at her own expense, yet despite her formidable commitments she still finds the time for outside interests even if they happen to be polar opposites such as collecting fine art and following the Richmond Tigers and the Dallas Cowboys football teams.

Among other positions she holds, Jacquelene is a Life Member of the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (NSW); Chair of Transport Women Australia Limited; Member of the Women in Trucking (US) Content Advisory Council; she is also a member of Women in Supply Chain; Women in Cold Chain (US).

An achievement she is especially proud of is the Women Driving Transport Careers programme, which she initiated as a joint venture with Wodonga TAFE and Volvo Group Australia, to encourage more females to obtain their heavy vehicle licences.

The industry repeatedly recognises Jacquelene’s contributions and she has received multiple awards including in 2018 the Women in Industry – Excellence in Road Transport Award, and the inaugural Australian Freight Industry Award – Female Leadership in Transport.

She encourages people from outside of the industry to examine what they may already have to offer to a role in transport.

“It’s important to recognise the transferable skills you may have such as household budgeting relating to corporate budgeting. People may have the skills but not realise they can be applicable to industry positions,” she says. “If you are running a family or running a household think of the skills, knowledge and experience that you have in your everyday life that match the criteria of transport jobs.”

The infamous ‘glass ceiling’ barrier to female advancement may not be inherent in the operations side of transport, but Jacquelene is cognisant it definitely exists in other sections of the industry. She also has some advice for anyone encountering it.

“The glass ceiling exists due to a few things: yourself, because you don’t ask and you don’t make your voices known. Always make your thoughts known and don’t be afraid of anything. Curiously, the other main factor is other women. Because a lot of women, not all of them, will not help other women.

“I think the most important job in the world is to raise a child. But if you want to have a career as well then the situation forced upon us by COVID has probably provided the best opportunity ever for people to combine family with work and prove you can have both,” says Jacquelene.

“They are not mutually exclusive. Many people probably will never work full time in the office again if they don’t want to, and now is the time to take advantage of that.”