Steves Blog

Tackling Diversity in Rail

27 April 2017

CPC was, once again, proud sponsors of this year's Young Rail Professionals (YRP) Black Tie Dinner and Dance in London, where the key note speaker, Michèle Dix, Managing Director of Crossrail 2, gave an inspiring speech detailing her career to date and the scale, statistics and challenges facing Crossrail 2.

Michèle also reflected on what it is to be a woman in the rail industry and the need for evermore diversity in what is traditionally a male orientated environment.

Her message echoes recent research by the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) that has found that women represent a paltry 8.4% of the workforce delivering projects across the rail sector. This number falls to 7.1% for women working in rail maintenance and plummets to 2.5% for women working in construction and engineering roles, such as design and construction managers. This said, women are finding their way into senior roles with 16 of the 45 positions on Network Rail, TfL, Crossrail and HS2 boards being fulfilled by women.

So how does our industry tackle this problem?

Firstly we have to accept that there is no quick fix and that to achieve diversity to a desirable level it will take a generation. It will need to start at the grass roots and require a focus on engaging with school children to enlighten them that the rail industry is an exciting and rewarding career choice for both men and women.

At the YRP dinner, 500 guests were shown a video of the excellent work that Railweek are doing to introduce the industry to young people who will be making career choices in the near future. The YRP has also been collaborating with Women In Rail's mentoring programme to inspire young professionals, nurture and foster talent and help women to grow in their roles.

Our industry must play its part with regards to effective campaigns to attract women to take up apprenticeships and to consider career changes into the rail sector, as well as Colleges and Universities setting out their stools to attract women into the more technical and engineering based courses.

We all know that mixed teams of men and women are more productive and congenial than teams heavily biased one way or the other. There are complementary strengths realised with the right mix of team members, so it is in all of our interests personally, as well as from a business and industry perspective to increase the current percentage of women in this sector.

Here at CPC we have made plans to address this issue by recruiting more women into our business in project management delivery roles. Our current target is that 1 in 4 new recruits, in delivery roles, will be women and this will increase to 1 in 3 over a three period.

As with any major change, we all need to be committed to achieving long-term realistic goals, over the next 10-20 years, to truly overcome the current gender diversity challenge.

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