Intercity rail operator First TransPennine Express (FTPE) is celebrating International Women’s Day today (Tuesday March 8th) by highlighting efforts to improve the gender divide in the rail industry. The industry is still dominated by men, but diversity is improving.
Gail Torrance, FTPE Driver Manager encourages people to see the rail industry as an exciting career path for both men and women.
“I didn’t want a job where I was sat in front of a computer all day, inputting numbers and the rail industry was definitely a place where that wouldn’t be the case. I saw the rail industry as a sector both constantly growing and changing, where new opportunities would arise all the time. I’ve never been any sort of train-spotter, I just thought the rail industry would be an exciting place to work,” she said.
As the only female driver manger, Gail Torrance says she’s at the far end of the male dominated scale.
“However I don’t find working in a male dominated industry challenging,” she said. “It is the job itself that I find challenging.”
She said most women stereotype a career in rail. “I think women see the rail industry as too big, too bad and too ugly. When women look for a job they look for a company which is people driven, but without realising that without people the railway just wouldn’t run. My job includes a broad range of responsibilities, but 90 per cent are people based.”
Tara O’Toole begun at FTPE as a conductor and has worked her way to On-Board Service Manager. She says while it’s clear the industry is dominated by men, it’s never become an issue.
“Yes there are more men in the industry, but I have always felt that I’ve been treated as an individual, not as a female. It’s about the person not their gender.” she said.
At FTPE more than 40 per cent of staff at the executive level are female, which includes the current interim Managing Director, while at the management level women make up one third of all positions. While diversity throughout the train company is improving, Interim Managing Director Liz Collins is aware there’s a plenty of room for improvement.
“Women bring a different dimension to the workplace, and as an industry we need to be promoting not only the positive influences women can bring, but also the opportunities the rail sector has for women, whilst making them aware of what it involves,” she said.
“At FTPE, to help make roles more attractive to women, we currently offer flexible working hours and we are looking at ways to help women transition back into roles following maternity leave. We have launched a ‘Women in Rail’ group within the business, to help support our female colleagues and provide a networking opportunity. I believe we are making progress and by having a high number of females in management and executive roles we will continue to promote diversity and encourage more women into not just a job in rail, but a career.”