Latest Rail News


Long-term strategy needed to tackle gender imbalance in engineering

Melanie Maldonado AECOMGuest blog to mark National Women in Engineering Day by Melanie Maldonado, principal project manager for Rail London, AECOM. 

It was my mum who suggested a career in engineering to me. A family friend was an engineer and that is how we knew it was a socially useful job with plenty of opportunity. I don’t think we imagined at the time how amazing those opportunities could become, and that I would work on nationally important projects like Crossrail and HS2. 

Now I have been in the industry for 16 years, I wonder how different my career path would have been without my mum’s insight and encouragement.

Over the years I have visited schools to tell young people about engineering and explain the fantastic career opportunities it offers. It always strikes me how few students understand what we do, so it’s not surprising they don’t initially view engineering as a potential career. On top of that, many female students dismiss engineering as a ‘male’ job. 

As an engineer and project manager, I get a lot of satisfaction out of making things work well. I have always enjoyed problem-solving, so this was a very natural career path for me. But I am concerned that many female students don’t think of engineering in this way, or see it as a viable career choice for them. As a profession, we have to fix this. 

There is a well-documented national shortage of engineers and few market segments are hit harder than rail. With huge levels of government investment in rail, there has never been a better time to work in the sector. But if half of tomorrow’s talent pool is cut off at the source, it will be much harder to improve matters in the future. 

Long-term strategy required 

National Women in Engineering Day (23 June) of course provides a platform to raise these issues. But to solve them, a long-term strategy is required to address the profession’s gender imbalance. 

At graduate level the gap between male and female students appears to be improving. Among apprentices, however, the gender split is huge and requires urgent action. 

The apprenticeship route was not an option when I came into the profession, so I studied for a degree. But today’s apprenticeships offer a structured, viable career path that should be encouraged. The balance between study, experience and practical skills is something that I know would have suited me well. 

While I’ve always been aware that I am a woman in a male-dominated industry, I’ve never felt negative about it. I’ve just got on with the job and enjoyed working with my colleagues and clients. But at a recent meeting I attended through AECOM’s mCircles female mentoring programme, I found myself in a room full of women and realised just how different it felt not to be in the minority. 

As a new mum myself, I am very focused on my children’s future. I hope the opportunities open to them are as least as good as they were for me. But it would be great if they could be even better.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

'the sleepers' blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >