Why the rail industry needs more women

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 2018

Anesha Rachel Malhan, one of the learners at the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), discusses her experience as the only woman at her 20-person course and advocates greater gender diversity for the benefit of the whole industry.

Doing a course at the NCHSR is not always easy, but I can promise you that it is always incredibly rewarding. It is a unique institution and provides its students with the skills needed to succeed in the cutting-edge world of high-speed rail.

Doing a course as the only woman in this male-dominated industry offers another challenge. As that sole female student on my course, I am making full use of the opportunities on offer and am developing my interest and skills in engineering and rail with great enthusiasm. But it has also taught me how much the rail industry stands to benefit from opening its doors to greater diversity.

My path to the rail industry was straightforward – I love being at the forefront of new ideas and technologies, and getting into high-speed rail is one of the best ways of doing so in the UK right now. I have a versatile background and the NCHSR takes advantage of this. It gives its students a wide range of specialisms in engineering, from design to civils to system engineering. I love my course and am so fortunate in my classmates. There are only 20 of us, but we are like a little family and make a conscious effort to support and help each other. We know that everyone is there for the same reason: to learn the skills needed to excel in our chosen career of high-speed rail engineering.

That being said, I know that the industry is missing out. Young women are enormously underrepresented in rail and engineering and yet we stand to make a massive contribution. It makes sense to use the best and brightest to advance the pace of technological innovation, and so opening up the industry to encourage women to join is a fantastic way to broaden the talent pool. I work with some incredibly talented men, but hope that my getting into high-speed rail encourages equally talented women to become engineers too.

HS2 will revolutionise rail in the UK. It will not only improve connectivity up and down the country, but boost local economies and supply chains and, significantly, help rectify the looming skills gap in the rail industry.

High-Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL), industry experts committed to the successful delivery of HS2, has been hugely supportive with my studies, sponsoring my tuition and providing guidance at this critical early stage of my career. Through them I have been fortunate to gain access to media opportunities like this, and I am looking forward to doing a civil engineering apprenticeship with Balfour Beatty Vinci, one of HSRIL’s member companies, later on this year. I know HSRIL is doing a great deal with their members to diversify the rail sector, and recognise that encouraging more women into rail is a fantastic way of providing the talent needed to make HS2 a success.

There is so much opportunity in UK rail right now. Major projects like Crossrail and HS2 will affect lives throughout the country for generations. Not since the Victorian age has there been so much innovation in British rail. Beginning a career in this industry is so exciting, and I would encourage anyone, particularly young women, to seriously consider getting in to high speed rail.



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