As Women in Rail heads towards the end of another year, I reflect on the achievements we have made collectively as a team in the previous twelve months…

In 2019, we launched two new Regional Groups: Women in Rail London (February) and Women in Rail Wales (June) and the WR Teams in Scotland, North West, Yorkshire, East Midlands, West Midlands, South, Wales and London held a total of 37 networking events and development workshops, ranging from simple get togethers to personal branding via dealing with mental health.

In January, we repowered our very successful cross-industry mentoring programme. Working with Moving Ahead, we paired 186 mentors and mentees from eleven participating companies into 93 mentoring pairs.

We also welcomed three pro-bono mentees (being women out of work, on care or maternity leave or whose company is not taking part in the Programme) free of charge thanks to a donation from BEIS. Matching was done by algorithm and participants received professional training via an online learning platform containing best in class guides and toolkits, live workshops and Masterclasses and were offered ongoing support through a hotline and three empowering networking events.

In April, we launched SWIFT, a network of senior women in (or formerly in) UK rail and transport and their male allies whose purpose is to offer a peer to peer network to senior executives in UK rail and support high potential women progress their career and transition to more senior roles. Our keynote speakers at the launch (sponsored by PWC) were Keith Williams and Lillian Greenwood MP.

In May, we held our second Women in Rail Awards ceremony at the Roundhouse in Camden and in June, our third Big Rail Diversity Challenge at Newark Showground. Both events were sold out and the feedback has been amazing.

In August, we launched ‘Never Mind the Gap’, a pilot WR initiative led by Sarah Reid, Chair of WR East Midlands, designed to offer women who are currently not in employment (either through a career break, care leave, redundancy or otherwise) free training and two-week work placements with a UK rail company.

We secured eight women work placements with Network Rail, Bombardier, Cross country Trains and Mott McDonald. In 2020, we want to roll out this initiative nationally to support and attract more women into our sector.

We ended the year with our Annual Conference, reiterating the business case for creating a gender balanced, diverse and inclusive workforce in rail. We heard from Gillian Unsworth (Head of Gender Pay Gap Reporting, Government Equalities Office) and Ruth Hannant (Directors General, Department for Transport), among others.

2019 has again been an amazing year for WR, thanks to the drive and passion of the WR Regional Leaders, their Steering Committees and of all the volunteers across the country who work hard alongside their day job to push the WR agenda forward.

A huge thank you to all of you for all your fantastic support: you make WR a key initiative for our industry.