Find your local transport provider

For information on local transport, select your area to be taken to your local transport website

Guest blog: Male allies can tip the balance for women in transport – Sonya Veerasamy

Thursday 14th March 2019

It’s a common misconception that as a “Women in” organisation men aren’t welcome. In fact, the opposite is true, women are severely underrepresented in the transport sector at just 20% of the workforce and sadly it’s a figure that has declined slightly in recent years. At Women in Transport, we recognise that gender balance is the optimum operating model for our sector and it’s just not possible for us to achieve parity without the support of the men that make up 80% of the transport workforce.

As a non-profit, our overall mission is to support and advance the careers of women working in transport through networking, events and mentoring. Our website and social media are platforms to raise awareness and visibility of the diverse opportunities in the transport sector. We also formed the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport in 2016, to tackle the underrepresentation of women working in transport across the UK. Importantly, our network is open to men and women and approximately 10% of our members are men.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme #BalanceforBetter” recognises that “Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”

The World Economic Forum predicts that, at the current pace, it will take over 60 years before women in Western Europe earn as much as men and are equally represented in the workplace – but key stakeholders can fast-forward progress. In the male dominated transport sector, the reality is that the people with the most influence and financial decision making power are men so, for women to progress and break down the real (and perceived) barriers and perceptions of working in transport – we need men to support and champion diversity and inclusion for the benefit of everyone.

We are very lucky to have two men on our board at Women in Transport, one of whom is Neil Pepper MBE. A health and safety night manager at Transport for London (TfL), Neil is a STEM ambassador and a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion in the transport sector. He has led our membership working group since 2017 and membership has doubled since he joined the board.

Neil has been instrumental in facilitating several interesting site visits; providing our members with insights into the industry and broadening their knowledge of the career opportunities available. He is often on hand at these visits, participating enthusiastically, whether it’s making the tea, delivering PPE or fielding questions – despite the challenge of fitting this in with working night shifts. Neil is also very aware of the practical issues facing women on sites; he solved our consistent problem of providing safety boots for women by sourcing a supply in very small sizes.

Neil has also introduced us to leading figures in transport and, thanks to him; we have hosted events with keynote speakers such as Sir Terry Morgan, former Chairman of Crossrail, and Mark Wild, when he was Managing Director of London Underground. This has helped us attract other leading speakers, event sponsorship and engage a much wider audience of women across the transport sector.

Neil’s support and enthusiasm has been invaluable in the continued success of Women in Transport and he is not our only male ally.

In 2017, we launched our first Advance mentoring programme and were overwhelmed with applications for mentors and mentees. We were fortunate to have a 50/50 split of men and women in the mentor pool. A testament to the programme’s success is the fact that all four sponsors for Advance 2019 were mentors in 2018 and two of them were men. These men have returned as mentors for 2019 and have been hugely supportive of other events and initiatives.
The positive impact that a male ally can have for our members is clearly illustrated by the feedback from one of our mentees below.

“I have had a really positive experience on Advance. The initial training and support was excellent and I’m still in touch with a number of fellow mentees which is another unforeseen benefit of getting involved. My mentor has been absolutely brilliant too. We have met monthly and covered a wide range of topics from career planning to confidence building and more practical things like how to challenge people more effectively. Through my mentor’s guidance and support, I have successfully been promoted and will be moving into an entirely new area of transport. No doubt I wouldn’t have achieved this without the clarity and support that my mentor has given me over the last six months. And the best part is that we’ve both got so much out of it that we’ve agreed to continue meeting!’ Harriet Glen, Transport for London

Harriet was promoted in August 2018 from Principal Transport Planner to Reliability Improvement Manager at TfL. She also won the Industry Champion award at the FTA Everywoman Awards in 2018. Her mentor was a senior man in transport and his feedback shows the clear benefit that he gained from this mentoring relationship:

“I have hugely enjoyed and feel very privileged to have been part of the initial mentoring programme run by Women in Transport. I have met and got to know a truly exceptional young woman who I am sure will continue to excel in her career. It has been a real pleasure broadening my knowledge of the industry and understanding more about how roles differ in the private and public sector. I am delighted to have been part of it and very much hope to continue providing a mentor role.” David Hart, Director, Momentum Transport

Women in Transport values the support of men in our efforts to advance the careers of women in the sector. We believe male allies can help us achieve a more gender balanced sector at a faster pace and together we can create a more diverse and stronger transport workforce that supports UK growth – and that’s just better for everyone.