Network Rail encourages young women to consider a STEM career this International Women’s Day

To coincide with International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March), Network Rail is asking young women to consider science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and find out about the different careers across the rail industry, as part of a new engagement programme. Female employees are working with schools across the country to share their experiences of the rail industry.

On Monday (6 March), Network Rail announced its ‘20 by 20’ target to increase its take-up of female employees across the business to 20 per cent by 2020.

Historically, the railway industry has been male-dominated and today only 16 per cent of Network Rail’s 35,000 workforce is female.

One of Britain’s biggest employers, Network Rail recognises it has a role in inspiring future generations about careers in the engineering sector. The pipeline of female talent entering the sector is low – the result of 50,000 girls turning away from a STEM education every year, says WISE (Women in Science and Engineering).

Yesterday (Tuesday 7 March), Network Rail graduates Olivia Mansfield and Lucy Hutchinson kick-started the programme by hosting a workshop at all-girls school Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls in Romford, Essex. They asked students to think about their personalities, skills and interests to help suggest possible matches for jobs in the railway industry, and then discussed the qualifications they would need for those jobs.

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Above: Maisie

Although I’m not sure what I want to do as a career, engineering appeals to me because it seems very hands on and I learn better when I see things in front of me. I found today really fun and interesting, especially the career quiz.

Maisie, a year 8 student at Frances Bardsley Academy

Above (l-r): Olivia and Lucy

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about engineering. The purpose of this visit was to help girls understand the many opportunities that engineering offers and that they have the skills that mean it’s an option for them. The rail industry carries out innovative and ground-breaking work each day and is an ever expanding industry.

The only way we can continue to deliver on our Railway Upgrade Plan is if we have the right balance of people, which means more girls from all different backgrounds.

Lucy Hutchinson, a Network Rail graduate who visited the school

As an all-girls academy we are desperately trying to break the engineering stereotype. We have a STEM club (called Girls STEAM Ahead) that I set up, which has about 60 members.

We have also built a model railway around the school where the girls learnt to arc weld the track, build a working train and carriages and have a workshop especially for engineering projects. We have constructed and built a ‘train station’ that will act as a STEM learning environment that sits along the side of our track.

Today was a great opportunity for the girls to look at stereotypical ‘men’s’ companies and realise that there is a place for them too.

Faye Deacon, teacher at Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls