Shona Clive, project lead, Rail Cluster Builder, Scottish Engineering and Chair of Women in Rail Scotland

Women in Rail Scotland launched in May 2018 in Scottish Engineering’s offices in the centre of Glasgow with a room full of men and women from across the Scottish Rail sector. Little did we know that a few years later, face to face meetings would be replaced by virtual meetings.

However, the reason that this is mentioned is not to raise Covid at this point, but to highlight just one of the important things that Women in Rail does. It creates incredible networking opportunities and connections for its members which can have a lasting impact when you least expect it. Little did I know that I would be working with Scottish Engineering three years after Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive very kindly offered to host our launch event and several joint events following that.

In Scotland, we have a steadily growing group which is now at 260 at the last count. Not bad for a team that started out with from zero. Our steering group with Lorna Macdonald, Hitachi, Eva MacInnes, Cowi, Gail Blythe, Siemens, Lisa McGhee, QTS, Sarah Alexander, Dentons and Lorna Gibson, QTS are a terrific bunch of very successful role models in the rail sector, who work tirelessly to keep our members informed and supported.

We’ve been running a series of virtual events since lockdown on topics such as ‘Habits that hold Women back at work’ and ‘Managing mental health during challenging times’ all of which we hope gave members an alternative train of thought to support them during this very uncertain time.

When we started the group back in 2018, it was important to understand the challenges women face in the rail sector in Scotland, so we issued a survey in 2019 and were delighted with the valuable feedback which gave us feedback to develop a targeted strategy and agenda for the years ahead.

It also gave us an opportunity to champion and support the challenges that mattered most to our members. You can access the survey on the Women in Rail website here.

We recognised that the Covid pandemic has changed the way we live and work and it may have an impact on some of the 2019 survey results, positively and negatively, so we ran a second survey to determine the level of impact and reshape our agenda accordingly.

Women in Rail Scotland is supporting the wider Women in Rail Never Mind the Gap initiative which is a programme to encourage women into the rail sector by providing two weeks hands on work experience to commence next year Covid permitting.

With many people being adversely affected by the current situation, what a great initiative to help people back into work and into an industry sector that they might not have considered before.

It’s well known known that the rail sector employs significantly more men than women and while our survey results show that some progress has been made with engaging and recruiting women to build a career in rail, there is still much work to be done.