Women make up 16% of the rail industry and in our recent study of over 5,000 workers across the construction, property, engineering and rail sectors, we set out to examine the reasons behind this. Why is it that women remain in the minority and what can be done to tackle this disproportion?

Progression and initiatives. 

41% of our respondents said they had never worked with a female manager and a further 15% believe there are too few female role models in senior positions. There are a number of of contributing factors towards this such as discrimination, an unconscious bias or responsibilities outside work. One respondent commented that “senior positions are not considered suitable as job share or as part-time which is what many women need as working mothers.”

Furthermore, four out of five respondents said they were unaware of any initiatives supporting women into senior positions within their organisation. These initiatives are often essential for introducing and retaining female staff, especially in male-dominated areas where there are few female leaders to look up to. An increase in the support we give women when progressing to managerial levels is key to securing female talent.

Culture change.

15% of respondents pointed towards a male-dominated culture as a reason women might leave the industry. One respondent mentioned that despite an increase of women entering traditionally masculine fields, it still “takes a strong woman to fit into these roles as these areas are still quite male dominated and a strong backbone is needed when working within this sort of environment.”

This can be incredibly damaging for women trying to build their careers in a culture that hasn’t been fully welcoming or accepting of their gender - especially when 14% reported being excluded from male conversations and social events. One respondent revealed that this exclusion extended to meetings that they were denied from attending.

Equal pay and flexible working hours. 

Equal pay seems like an obvious incentive but the gender pay gap can present itself in ways that are slightly less obvious. 17% of the women we surveyed believed they had been passed over for a promotion and 15% reported they had been passed over for important projects. Whilst pay across positions could be equal, if women are not receiving the same opportunities as their male counterparts, or if men are receiving promotions at a faster rate, women are at a disadvantage. Measures need to be put in place to monitor progression within a business and address any issues regarding diversity in the process.

What needs to change?  

It is undeniable that a change needs to take place and whilst these results may seem daunting, transformation may be closer than thought. When asked whether having a female manager would affect their working day, 77% of respondents said it would be the same and 17% believed it would improve, showing that whilst people may not be aware of the issue, they are not opposed to it. 16% of women said that flexible working hours would persuade more women to remain or enter the industry and a further 10% said that the lack of flexitime would be a contributing factor to women leaving. It is now time for industry leaders to work on inclusion whilst attaining this talent that is essential to their business.