Transport for London (TfL) has released a video to mark the centennial anniversary of women working in the transport sector.
The launch coincides with the centennial anniversary of the First World War, when 100,000 women entered the industry to take on the responsibilities held by large numbers of men who enlisted for military service.
TfL said women remained underrepresented in the industry, where they made up only 18% of transport workers. In London, only one of the train operating companies was led by a woman, while none of the main bus operating companies were led by a woman.
Women in TfL represented 22.8% of the total workforce and 22.5% of senior managers. It said that while this was slightly above the national average for the transport industry, the sector still lagged behind other related industries, such as utilities (25%), manufacturing (24%) and information and communications (21%).
A century of women in transport
During the First World War, some 100,000 women joined the transport industry. London transport played a pivotal role during the war, providing staff and vehicles to take trips to the Western Front, and over 17,000 Tube, bus and tram staff enlisted for military service. Women kept services running and London moving during that time.
TfL said that with some reluctance, railway unions and management agreed to employ women to undertake all sorts of transport work which had previously only been available to men – from ticket inspectors and booking clerks to painters and guards – usually at equal pay to men. When Maida Vale station opened in June 1915 as part of the Bakerloo Line extension, it was entirely staffed by women. By November of that year, London’s first woman tram conductor – Mrs G Duncan – had started work on the route 37.
In common with other key home front industries, these pioneers changed attitudes towards the role of women and marked the beginning of the diversification of the transport workforce. Although many were asked to relinquish their roles after the war for returning soldiers, wartime employment gave women new opportunities and status.
TfL said that it was therefore now fitting to look back and recognise these ’trailblazers’ which, along with subsequent legislative successes over the years, changed things immeasurably for women in the engineering workforce. From the appointment of the first female Transport Minister, Barbara Castle, in 1965 to equal pay rights in 1970 and anti-discrimination legislation in 1975, reforms have supported this progress.