On the 8th of March every year, women across the globe come together to celebrate International Women’s Day. A day to applaud each other's achievements and to encourage each other to be the best they can be.
The theme for International Women's Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. So we wanted to challenge the perception that working on the railway is mostly for men. Back in the day the railway was deemed to be a man’s world but over time this has thankfully changed. ScotRail now employs 1,143 females across all areas of the business. While this is an improvement from over the years, there is still a lot of work to be done because this only makes up 21% of the entire workforce.
We’re always looking at ways to attract more women to ScotRail to enjoy a fulfilling and varied career. We chatted to five women from across the business to learn more about their railway journey.
Anne Gray, Customer Information Strategy Manager
Anne joined the ScotRail team in August 1994 in a Customer Service role and has progressed through various roles to now be responsible for overseeing CCTV operations and managing how information is relayed to customers in order to keep the railway running as smoothly as possible.
For Anne, joining ScotRail came around by chance, “When I left university I didn’t have a chosen career path and I saw an advert in The Herald looking for graduates with languages for a Customer Service role. I thought that would an ideal role for me and one I would do well in for a couple of years until I decided on next steps.”
That couple of years turned into another couple and before long Anne had established a fulfilling career journey. “I love the fact that I work with a great team and in a very fast paced environment. No two weeks are ever the same and we never know what will happen next but we need to be ready to respond and adapt.”
For any women, of any age, thinking about a career in the railway, “Reach for the stars. There are lots of different roles and opportunities within ScotRail. You are your biggest supporter and you need to have the confidence to keep pushing yourself by developing your skills and experience and reaching out to people. Never be afraid to ask a question and take feedback on board.”
Ashley Nicolson, Conductor at Glasgow Central
Ashley’s journey as a conductor started in June 2019: “After working with the NHS for 12 years, I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to do something different and be pushed out with my comfort zone. The Conductor job came up at the right time for me and with a little encouragement I went for it.”
“Although we need to maintain a high level of concentration while doing our job safely, we have the luxury of travelling all over the country and seeing some beautiful sights. That for me is far more exciting than sitting doing any office job or being stuck in one place. I love that everyday is different.”
Being a conductor has long been thought of as a “man’s job” but since 2017, the number of female conductors has risen by 16%. “I would say to any woman thinking about applying for a job in the railway or trying to progress within the organisation to 100% go for it. From my own experience I can't fault the process or support I have been given since I started. The work/home balance is great, along with the many perks that come with the job. It is definitely an inclusive company to work for and has much to offer, with many different avenues of opportunity to progress your career along with added support from colleagues.”
Margaret Hoey, Glasgow Queen Street General Manager
Managing a large station in the heart of Scotland’s busiest city would be a daunting task for anyone, but Glasgow Queen Street General Manager, Margaret Hoey, took it in her stride. “Five years ago if you told me I was going to manage a major station being knocked down and rebuilt with 50,000 people travelling through it each day I would have told you you were mad and run a mile. Then two years later that opportunity came my way and I embraced the challenge full on."
"It’s definitely my proudest achievement. It’s now in the final stages of a three year transformation and we’ve created a beautiful contemporary, fully accessible transport hub. I have managed and delivered this successfully allowing the station to remain open for business. I couldn’t have done this alone and I am very proud of my team for helping me along the way.”
Margaret’s incredible career on the railway started 17 years ago at Motherwell Station, “I was a bus driver at the time doing long hours with low wages and my company was going into liquidation. I started looking in the recruitment section of the local paper, this is when I noticed the Station Grade relief post at Motherwell Station. I applied and was successful and have never looked back since.”
“I would advise any female to join the railway as there are so many opportunities that really suits everyone's needs and any position within ScotRail can be carried out by anyone. If anyone said to me “ that’s a man’s job “ I would make sure I proved them wrong hence the reason I became a bus driver. I think its important to push your boundaries daily and achieve what you can. The railway is a very diverse employer with equal opportunities for everyone.”
Lorraine Green, Driver Team Manager Inverness
Joining ScotRail back in 2005, Lorraine is proud to have worked as a Driver and Driver Instructor before becoming a Driver Team Manager. But it doesn’t stop there for Lorraine, she plans to, "continue to develop in my current role and explore further experience in any operational higher management roles.”
Being a train driver has long been thought of as a man's role but a woman has just as much chance of success which Lorraine clearly proves. When asked what advice she’d give women looking to embark on a career in the railway, she said, “Believe in yourself. Don’t believe there are roles you can’t do. Despite sometimes there being a perception that train driving can be a male orientated role, this is not true. Go for it!” Since 2017, the number of female train drivers has increased by 39%. And we can't wait to see it increase even further when we have the next intake of drivers!
Annabel Leckenby, Head of Sales and Marketing
There are always opportunities for women to join the railway at any point in their career. While there are lots of entry-level routes in - and we’re big on promoting from within - there are also great roles at a high level. Annabel Leckenby joined the team in September 2018 as Head of Sales and Marketing.
“I’m a huge travel lover, I love exploring new places across the world and enjoyed the first part of my career in the travel industry with international tour operators and laterally with an airline before joining the railway. I love the sense of adventure the railway offers and I was keen to delve into the world of Scottish tourism and all the opportunities traveling across Scotland by rail brings. A train journey has always felt like a bit of an adventure for me and I wanted to be part of bringing that alive for more people across Scotland. We’re so lucky to live in such a glorious country and seeing it by rail is something really special.”
As with a lot of industries, this past year has seen some huge challenges for our marketing team. For Annabel, how her team have responded to this is one of her biggest achievements, “I’m very proud of how we’ve risen to challenge after challenge over the last year as we navigate through the pandemic. The agility we’ve had to display to deploy campaigns and activities as we work closely with government restrictions, keeping customers informed and safe and particularly supporting key workers who have had to make journeys to work every day. All whilst juggling personal challenges like having babies, toddlers and teens at home or supporting families that are shielding. I’m proud of the team culture we have and the support we offer each other. There’s a common phrase in the railway that many use, the ‘railway family’ and I believe our team embody this perfectly.”
While the railway may all be one big family, gender imbalance is still an issue, but one that everyone is working hard to balance out. “The railway is an inclusive and increasingly more diverse industry than its ever been, so if you’re considering a career in the railway, go for it, don’t hold back! More women are moving into senior roles and being supported better through roles traditionally taken up by men in the past, so it’s an exciting time to join and be part of the change.”