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Crossrail will create over 75,000 opportunities for businesses over the course of the project’s lifecycle and through these openings is enough work to support the equivalent of 55,000 full time jobs.
Despite these opportunities, the rail industry is still suffering from a severe gender gap. Currently only 15% of those working in the sector are female, despite women making up approximately half of the UK’s workforce.
A number of internal and external factors could be stopping women from joining the rail industry. According to Adeline Ginn, founder of Women in Rail, women can feel that their chances of success are lower than their male counterparts, which leads to a lack of self-confidence when it comes to networking events were women are typically in the minority. Internal issues like this could be attributed to workplaces being dominated by men, which is something that Crossrail is looking to resolve.
The Crossrail project has made attempts to close the gender gap and currently almost a third of Crossrail employees are female. While this figure is higher than the industry average, it cannot compensate for the lack of women wanting to enter the industry.
Crossrail has implemented a variety of small changes that should make the rail industry less exclusive to men. Challenging some of the language used on the worksite, banning lewd material such as pin-up girls in the foreman’s office and renaming the ‘man rider’ to a ‘basket’ may seem like insignificant changes, but all help combat the harmful stereotype of a worksite ruled by men.
Crossrail has also teamed up with a variety of organisations that focus on ending the stigma which the rail industry faces to make this career more attractive to women. Creating Women into Construction (who have now moved into Crossrail’s Canary Wharf HQ) has allowed both organisations to work closely to try and mend the gender gap through collaboration with Crossrail’s employability and education teams.
These collaborations have been used to not only tackle the gender gap, but also secure future talent for the rail industry. Crossrail has been connecting female role models with girls choosing their career path through visits to schools and career events.
Through the Young Crossrail programme, they have reached over 36,000 pupils, teachers and parents to show the next generation how exciting and rewarding a career within the rail industry can be.
Since the beginning of operations in 2009, Crossrail has been a pioneer with their efforts to close the gender gap. However, more needs to be done throughout the country to try and promote the rail industry to potential talent. Although more roles are continuing to appear, widening the skills gap, projects such as the HS2 are making an effort through their dedicated college opening in Birmingham to train future rail professionals.
The government has outlined plans to help women enter the industry through thousands of extra apprenticeships. Department for Transport plan to write targets into new contracts starting this month with the aim to create 30,000 apprenticeships at a rate of one for every 40 people employed.
Crossrail and other rail projects throughout the UK are implementing strategies to try and combat the looming skills gap that is currently casting a shadow over the rail industry. These strategies are trying to attract women to the industry and the necessary STEM subjects that will allow them to thrive throughout their rail career.