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Launch of 100 Years of Women in Transport

Launch_bannerA programme of events and a commitment to securing the future of women in transport was launched by Transport for London (TfL) at the Living Room at City Hall on Tuesday 11th November 2014. The event was attended by women and men from across the industry and by supporters of the project including WTS London, Women's Engineering Society (WES), Thales, Network Rail, Department for Transport and Crossrail.

The 100 Years of Women in Transport programme is about strengthening our industry so that it benefits from increased diversity, attracts and retains talented staff, contributes to the wider economy and is well positioned to respond to the significant operational and delivery challenges we now face. The programme of activities is focusing on three strategic objectives:

  1. Support our industry’s overall purpose and ability to respond to the significant challenges we face as a result of unprecedented levels of growth and development in London and across the UK.
     
  2. Contribute to building our industry’s brand as an ‘industry of choice’ for all, particularly women
     
  3. Contribute to London/UK society more widely

Baroness Jo Valentine opened the event reflecting on a 100 years of women working in the industry and the challenges that still remain to Baroness_Valentineencouraging women to get in and stay in transport. Michèle Dix, Managing Director of Planning at TfL, introduced a video of women currrently working across the transport industry, asking them if they considered that they were 'A woman in a man's job?' I'm sure you can imagine the reaction.

The film went on to demonstrate through archived footage how the First World War changed the working world where ‘jobs for men’ suddenly required women to fill the gap left by men who had gone to fight. Between 1914-18, the number of women working in the industry increased fivefold but then women were expected to give up their jobs and return to the home once the men returned.


When World War II came around, the call to action for women was quicker and for a wider variety of roles, so that by 1945 a third of the jobs in industry were filled by women. Much of the history of the time is anecdotal, for example, Waterloo Bridge is known as ‘The Ladies' Bridge’ by riverboat men who reported it was built by women in the First World War. Another date of note was the appointment of Barbara Castle in 1965 as the first female Minister of Transport who was instrumental in bringing in the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act.

Michele_DixMichèle Dix discussed the progress on diversity across the board and challenges for attracting women into all roles across transport - operational, technical as well as legal, marketing and HR.  Michèle highlighted the long history and legacy of women in transport from 1,700 women working on trains and buses during the First World War and the founding of the WES in 1919 to women representing 22 per cent of TfL’s current 27,000 strong workforce and a third of Crossrail’s employees.

A second video showcased some of the women working in transport today including WTS London's very own Lauren Sager Weinstein, Head of Analytics at TfL and the first WTS London President, Valerie Todd of Crossrail.  The women are working across a range of roles in the transport sector and their stories were inspirational and fascinating. Today, 23 per cent of the workforce in transport is represented by women however it is clear that we still have a challenging journey ahead with 2.4m women who want to work that currently don't.
 
Mark Carne, Chief Executive of Network Rail, spoke about senior women working across the network lamenting the fact that these women are still Mark_Carne2trailblazers and not representative of the general workforce. He emphasised that a truly inclusive workforce is about being able to be yourself and that balanced diversity does drive better performance and creates a more open, honest and safe working environment. Mark set out three key areas of focus for the industry:

  • Developing our existing workforce through personal development
  • Engaging and inspiring the next generation
  • Retaining talent through initiatives such as the WISE 10 step initiative

Mark ended his talk with the final verse of John McCrae’s in Flanders Fields in recognition of Armistice Day and the challenges ahead;

 
‘Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though po
ppies grow
In Flanders fields.’


 
Launch_panelThe panel formed of Mike Brown MVO, Managing Director for London Rail; Valerie Shawcross CBE, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee; Clare Moriarty, Director General for Rail Executive; and Andrew Wolstenholme OBE, Chief Executive Officer for Crossrail then answered questions from the audience. A lively discussion followed about topics including the single biggest development that has led to progress for women, how to attract a diverse workforce across generations, gender and location, how does diversity lead to a safer environment and barriers to operational roles and mentoring.

Recommendations for employers included talking about women in transport roles as if it is the ‘norm’, providing access both to study relevant subjects and employment opportunities and putting women in roles if they are right for the job. Advice for women in transport was to be confident, learn to fake it even when you don’t feel confident, take some risks, keep calling out unreasonable behaviour and be open – if you have to leave early to take your children somewhere then be open about it, rather than feeling bad, until it becomes the ‘norm’. An important point was that mentoring is essential but that it shouldn’t just be the busy, women leaders and senior managers that get involved – men can be great mentors for women too and provide a different perspective, insight and network.
 
The programme of activities for 100 Years of Women in Transport will include insight sessions, the launch of a dedicated Linkedin group and monthly email newsletters
 
WTS London will be involved in the shadowing and mentoring programme as part of the 100 Years of Women in Transport so look out for further updates on this on our website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

 

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