Abu Siddeeq, Head of Customer Experience at LNER, Member of the Board of Trustee of Women in Rail and winner of the Women in Rail Inspirational Man of the Year Award 2019 explains his passion for gender balance, diversity and inclusion in UK rail

I joined the rail industry in 2013. I started my career as Contracts Manager with FirstGroup and earlier this year, I joined LNER as Head of Customer Experience.

On my first day in the industry, I remember being hugely impressed by the pace and the energy of the sector. The close-knit community culture made it very easy for me to enjoy my role and helped me grow a real love for rail. At GWR, I got the chance to work for a prestigious operator run by passionate and brilliant people who epitomise rail. At LNER, the professionalism, attitude and passion of colleagues is just the same. This, for me, sums up what we mean by ‘railway family’.

As someone who has grown up facing open racism, conscious and unconscious bias, I feel passionately about opening opportunities for all and especially about supporting those from minorities to realise their potential. I therefore had a natural leaning towards the work of Women in Rail. The challenges of attracting more women into STEM sectors such as rail, or of increasing the proportion of females into senior roles, are no different from the challenges faced by those, like myself, from ethnic minority backgrounds, who are seeing too few role models in senior positions who represent them. 

As a father to two young girls, my affinity with the charity’s agenda is greater than ever as I want to live in a world where my daughters never question if the career path they choose to follow is appropriate for their gender or their ethnicity.

The rail sector is doing a lot to attract a more diverse workforce and we are seeing increasing engagement from schoolchildren upwards. This helps tackle unconscious biases and erroneous perception about the types of roles that are available in our sector and, more importantly, who are invited to fill them. At LNER, we are working with Work180 and Together Comms to focus targeted advertising to minority groups. We were also heavily involved in celebrating International Women’s Day. 

For me, the single most important thing we can do as individuals to make our industry more diverse and inclusive is to mentor colleagues, particularly those with high potential who may come from minorities and may lack the confidence to take the next step in their career. Mentoring brings a genuine sense of satisfaction: there is nothing more rewarding than helping your mentees flourish and reach their full potential. As senior professionals, we can foster the next generation of leaders and ensure the talent pool is as diverse as it can be.

The Women in Rail team is passionate about ensuring its decisions are enriched by a diversity of perspectives and thoughts, so its work effectively reaches out to all those who need its support. I hope to bring to the team the same level of passion, commitment and support, offering a different opinion and viewpoint, focussed on the same outcomes of achieving a greater level of diversity and inclusion in our industry. 

To find out more about Women in Rail, please visit our website: www.womenintrail.org