Women need to be put forward for more promotions in the rail industry, which has barely seen an increase in the number of female workers in 100 years, according to top rail executives.
Championing women for promotions, tackling the perception of anti-social working hours in the rail industry and encouraging more girls into engineering subjects could all help attract more women to the profession and head off a looming skills crisis.
In December Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne admitted that just 16% of its 38,000 staff were women.
A panel of engineers at Rail Women, an event celebrating International Women’s Day yesterday (Thursday), cautioned that failing to make the sector more attractive to women would worsen the skills crisis. There is a shortfall of roughly 20,000 graduates in the engineering industry each year.
HS1 Ltd chief executive Dyan Crowther, who was on the panel, said: “Without women, the workforce is missing half its potential. This is a fantastic sector with a huge variety of roles.
“We need to do a better job at making young people aware that a career in rail doesn’t necessarily mean hard hats, orange jackets and manual labour. Tackling the outdated 1950s stereotypes is key.”
Railway Industry Association director Gaynor Pates said the rail industry must redouble its efforts to support and attract female workers.
She added: “Increasing the representation of women in rail should be a key priority for the whole industry.
“There is no silver bullet to achieving a more diverse industry, but there are things we can do to encourage more women into the profession, including ensuring there are high profile role models at the top of the sector and a conducive environment that allows women to achieve their full potential.”
Rail Women was held at St Pancras International station as part of a series of events organised by HS1 Ltd to mark the station’s 150th birthday.