More women are needed to join our industry

Last year marked a hundred years since the outbreak of World War I. In the course of the conflict hundreds of thousands of young men enlisted in the armed services, including more than 17,000 London Underground, bus and tram workers.

During this time many of their roles were filled by women for the first time. In this pivotal moment in transport history, women took on a variety of roles from ticket inspectors and booking clerks to station staff and guards – helping keep London’s services running and the capital moving.

When Maida Vale station opened in June 1915, as part of the Bakerloo Line extension, it was staffed entirely by women. In November of the same year, the first female tram conductor started work on route 37.

Some 20 years later, following the outbreak of the World War II, women were once again in demand by London Transport. This time they were recruited on a much larger scale, taking on virtually every job in the industry, including manual labour and heavy engineering work.

What began as a temporary arrangement has, of course, endured over the past century, and women continue to work in the industry in a huge variety of roles, ranging from engineers and transport lawyers to bus and Tube drivers and transport planners.

Coinciding with the centenary of the outbreak of the World War I, TfL has joined forces with Crossrail, the Department for Transport, Network Rail, the Women’s Transportation Seminar and the Women’s Engineering Society as well as others in the transport industry to celebrate 100 Years of Women in Transport. This celebration will be used as an opportunity to showcase the past and present role of women in transport, share best practice from across the industry and tackle the challenges that remain, a significant one being how we attract more women into the industry.

Over the course of 2014-15, TfL and its partners are using 100 Years of Women in Transport to undertake a number of initiatives, including a series of inspirational talks by women such as Olympic gold medallist, House of Lords cross-bencher and TfL board member Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and Suzi Donoghue, commanding officer in the Royal Logistic Corps.

I recently took part in a debate on the effectiveness of the term “feminist” in bringing about change, particularly in the transport industry. I don’t think we need labels: we need to see action and achieve a balanced representation of women at all levels of an organisation.

In addition to insight sessions and debates, other activities such as exhibitions, seminars and speed mentoring events are planned for the remainder of the year. Alongside thinking about how we motivate our current workforce, we have a number of activities planned with schools to engage and inspire future generations. These activities include school debates and challenges, work experience and the development of an interactive toolkit. This is about attracting more young people – and more women in particular – into transport by presenting it as the industry of choice.

TfL already supports over 30 million journeys every day, including on the roads and public transport. However, as the capital’s population continues to grow towards an estimated 10 million by 2030, a considerable amount of work is required to keep pace with this growth and meet present and future transport needs. This work involves some of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, including Crossrail and Crossrail 2, new river crossings such as the Silvertown Tunnel and a host of road projects such as the inner orbital tunnel. Such work is undertaken through a huge variety of roles in spheres from politics, operations and law to communications, strategic planning and engineering. Ultimately the success of these projects depends on having a workforce that is resilient and diverse and reflects the diversity of the city it serves.

Studies have shown that having a diverse workforce makes business sense and provides a whole range of economic benefits. Though we recognise this at TfL – where 22.8% of the workforce and 22.5% of senior managers are woman, the highest these figures have ever been – we acknowledge that, like the wider transport industry, we still have significant progress to make.

That is why the 100 Years of Women in Transport programme is so important: it provides us with a rare opportunity to unite everyone to rise to the challenge of an issue that prevents us as both an industry and as organisations from unlocking our full potential and firing on all cylinders.

For further information on the programme please go to: or follow us on Twitter at: @transportwmn

Alternatively if you are interested in getting involved or have any queries please contact: [email protected]

Transport Times, May 2015 Issue

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