Sexist perceptions about job opportunities for women in the rail industry are a damaging barrier, Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher has said.
Network Rail today launches a campaign to attract more talented women to the company, addressing the poor male/female balance. It will begin by aiming to attract more women to its award winning apprenticeship scheme, which since its inception in 2005 has received only around 2% of applications from women.
Chief executive Iain Coucher said the image of the railway as “old-fashioned” and “heavy” could discourage women from considering careers in the sector.
“I’m sure that they are being put off by an outdated image of what we do and what we need. This is a scandalous waste.”
Iain Coucher, Network Rail
“I see a modern company, using 21st century technology needing a highly skilled workforce to maintain and deliver a successful and growing railway. We need more exceptional women to join us at Network Rail,” he said. “I’m sure that they are being put off by an outdated image of what we do and what we need. This is a scandalous waste.
“All of us; industry, educators and government, must work harder to promote the fantastic career opportunities open to both men and women in the rail industry and engineering as a whole. If not, Britain will miss out on leading the world in this field.”
Network Rail’s campaign will involve recruitment advertising targeted at women, the targeting of all-female schools with recruitment materials, current female employees representing the company at career fairs and events, and increased representation of women on the Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme website.
Currently 12.7% of Network Rail’s workforce is female, and in 2008/9 only 17% of external job applicants were women
No difference at all
Daryl Levison, 20, from Ilford in east London joined Network Rail’s advanced apprenticeship scheme in 2007. Now in her final year, Levison is based at Network Rail’s Witham depot where she specialises in signalling.
“When I went out on the track for the first time, I realised that this is a place where I can fit in and work in a team,” said Levison. “At first working with lots of guys was a little difficult but within weeks it was like there was no difference at all.
“I really enjoy learning something new most days and that I am going to have job security even after I finish the apprenticeship. The skills that I am learning on this scheme are also transferable.
“I know that if I wanted to, these skills would help me in lots of different jobs within Network Rail, and that’s really valuable.”
In a recent GlideInsight survey for Network Rail, when asked who a career in railway engineering best suited, 47% of those polled said mainly or only men. When asked if enough was done in schools to promote a career to women in this area, 45% said unequivocally no, with nearly half agreeing that not enough is done.
- Network Rail’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme website can be found at http://careers.networkrail.co.uk/apprentices