Network Rail must address its gender imbalance, with women accounting for just 16% of its workforce of 40,000. This “shocking” statistic was revealed by Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, at the Everyone Summit held at the Royal Academy of Engineering last week.
“In the operationally focused parts of the business [Network Rail] - the bits that actually run the railway - it’s more like 10%,” he said. “Just 280 of our 3,100 engineers are women, shocking isn’t it?,” said Carne.
“The railway is a predominately male environment. When a workforce is made up of similar people – when they all think the same and have the same background – it encourages conformity and stifles creativity.
“It doesn’t help us to challenge the way we’ve been doing business for decades. It doesn’t help us to drive up productivity and offer better value for money. ?It doesn’t help us to keep making our railway safer.”
He cited the ‘Women Matter’ study carried out by consultant McKinsey & Company, which showed that organisations with three or more women in a senior management team have higher than average scores of organisational excellence.
Carney said Network Rail had drawn up four key steps towards gender diversity: Attraction, Recruitment, Retention and Progression. “There are simply not enough young women studying STEM subjects – science, technology and maths – after the age of sixteen, and there’s no good reason for this.”
Better recruitment would require making Network Rail a more attractive employer for women, and considering if jobs ads tended to appear on websites predominantly looked at by men.
The next step for Network Rail, beyond recruitment, was to be the “best employer we can be for our existing female employees; to make sure they want to stay with us,” said Carne.
“The reality is that even if you’ve got the best and fairest recruitment process, it counts for little if you aren’t retaining your female workforce, and we aren’t doing as good a job here as we need to.
“Women working at Network Rail are significantly more likely to leave the business than men and, after the age of 30, the number of women working for us drops off considerably.
“We need to understand why we’re losing our women and how we can be a better employer to women, particularly those in their thirties.”
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