New initiative from Network Rail aims to increase gender diversity in the rail industry

Network Rail, Britain’s rail network operator, has launched a campaign to increase the number of women working in the rail industry.

The company said last week that it has set a target of increasing its female workforce to 20% by 2020, pointing out that encouraging greater diversity makes good business sense.

Network Rail is working directly with schools to encourage more young people, women in particular, to consider STEM subjects and to inspire them about the different types of careers available in engineering and the wider railway industry.

A new engagement programme, ‘People Like Me’, shows how different personalities contribute in different roles, helping students to identify a role that genuinely appeals to them.

Miriam MacLennan, route asset manager at Network Rail, explained: “Society has an old-fashioned bias towards engineers being men in top hats or operating heavy construction machinery, however, civil engineering is so much more! We are the custodians of balancing natural resources and human demand. To do this well we need a better mix of people working as engineers who are skilled in, for example, communication, the art of persuasion or the desire to investigate and explore the realms of the unknown.

“The railway is growing at a spectacular rate and Network Rail is going to need many more engineers to shape and deliver its Railway Upgrade Plan. Great engineering relies enormously on creative thinking, a desire to collaborate and a thorough understanding of the problems. Diverse teams are essential in these situations.”

Rajinder Pryor, engagement lead for the digital railway – an industry plan to accelerate the digital modernisation of the railway – added: “Exploring digital railway technology to meet the capacity and performance challenge will require more than traditional engineering expertise. With opportunities like the digital railway, now is a really exciting time to be considering a career in the railway so I hope we can continue to attract and incentivise future talent, including encouraging more women into the rail industry.”

Throughout March and April, Network Rail staff will be visiting schools across the country to deliver educational sessions on careers in the STEM sector.

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