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The importance of role models and trailblazers

Tuesday 19th March 2019

We asked women from Transport for the North and the wider transport sector about their role models, or women they admired, and the important lessons they’ve learned from them.

Barbara White, Transport for the North

A line manager, Fiona, was a very positive role model in my life, she had presence, she was authentic and credible, yet as senior as she was she remained grounded and knew how to make her team feel valued and trusted to do their job. She recognised good performers, knew her people and didn’t compromise on standards. In turn I worked hard for her, not the organisation, for her. The learning that has stayed with me to this day is that the bedrock of employee engagement is the Line Manager, what I didn’t realise back then was that I was giving discretionary effort willingly. I loved my job and felt valued for my contribution. That was 25 years ago and although we’ve both moved on she remains a good friend.

Indra Nooyi (ex CEO of Pepsico) is a woman whom I greatly admire. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women. I admire her drive and ambition, clearly an extremely focused and intelligent woman she was worked her way up to the very top whilst also bringing up a family.

Ruth Sherratt, Transport for the North

I’ve been so lucky. Biology Mistress Helen Conway a powerful advocate of all children, believed comprehensive children like me deserved more than a life behind a till or on a factory floor. She lent me university level biology books and let me attend her Psychology and Sociology evening classes for free. I was the first person in my family to go to university because of her. Every child Helen taught as an individual, her legacy was immense. I was 42 when she passed away, I and many others cried her a river.

At City of York Council Deputy Chief Exec Laura McGillivray taught me that leadership isn’t about knowing the minutia of the specialisms of your direct reports, it’s about trusting them, nurturing them and binding them into a happy successful team.

At TfN there are many amazing women whom it’s a privilege to know. My boss Dawn Madin is formidable, few people of any gender could have built TfN from scratch and ensured the hard-won momentum generated led to Statutory Status. TfN the project has taken the kind of vision and energy rare today in our disposal society, the Victorians had it when they planted seeds carefully gathered from across the globe knowing many wouldn’t grow into trees in their lifetime. At TfN our work is about believing as much in the value of legacy as we do in each other today.

Tracey Barber, Rail Safety Week

Many years ago, I had a Dance Teacher who many thought of as a dragon. They could not have been further from reality. Carole was a strong, independent lady who would push you to achieve the best of your ability and would demonstrate that hard work always reaped benefits and reward. Her mantra of “don’t tell me you cannot do it – find another way of approach” has stuck with me for many years.

Lorna McDonald, Hitachi Rail

Without hesitation, ‘our Lucy Prior’ is right up there. Lucy is the perfect example of a true shining star who does what she does for all the right reasons. I not only admire her sheer grit and determination coupled with the fact she has unlimited energy and resilience, but she is also a mother of two young children. She makes doing what she does look effortless. You cannot fail to be enamoured by her infectious personality, her encyclopaedic knowledge of the industry and her unique ability to network. Lucy sets the benchmark and is my measure of what an impressive woman should be.

Kirsten Keen, Transport for the North

Would it be too cliché to say my sister, Felicity? She’s also in the transport industry – we have very different ways of working but she has a strong work ethic and, again, will go out of her way to support her team and colleagues. That’s something I have always admired and has definitely influenced my career. Our distinct approaches have also led me to value different people’s opinions, even if I don’t always agree!