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NR launches ‘20 by 20’ scheme to inspire greater gender diversity in workforce

A new programme has been launched by Network Rail (NR), setting a target to increase the number of women working in the industry by 20% by 2020 in an effort to involve more women in the male-dominated workforce.

The scheme, ‘20 by 20’, has been brought in to combat the rail industry’s domination by men, as it was found that of the 12,000 graduate engineers trained last year, only one in five were women.

NR also said that the programme was essential to future success as to meet industry need it would require 54,000 engineers per year, a figure that is unattainable without higher engagement from more female engineering trainees.

One part of the project will involve engaging with pupils in school during National Apprenticeship Week and International Women’s Day to inspire and encourage young women to take STEM subjects, as it was revealed that 82% of teachers had stated that they do not have the appropriate knowledge to advise students about their career choices.

Commenting on the programme, Loraine Martins, NR’s director of diversity and inclusion, said: “There is still a wide perception that engineering jobs are for ‘boys only’. Many of the outdated stereotypes about what makes certain career choices male or female continue to be engrained within some children from a really young age, often passed down through parents, families and teachers.

“Our own research has shown that girls as young as seven believe that engineering is not an option for them, which is why we need to do everything we can to educate children, parents and teachers about the vast array of jobs within the sector. Attracting and retaining a diverse mix of talent is essential not only for our business, but also for the UK economy as a whole.”

Helen Samuels, NR’s engineering director, added that the myths about the profession still existed and needed to be tackled to encourage more women to embark on careers as engineers. 

“Engineering is basically problem-solving. Sometimes it's maths, but sometimes it's helping people to understand what you are doing and why, or figuring out how to build something for less money,” she said, adding: “Diverse teams are important for this, and having a mixture of skills sets in these problem-solving situations is key.

“One of the most common myths is that engineering is a ‘dirty’ profession. Many engineering roles are based either part-time or full-time in an office environment, although I really enjoy the cut and thrust of site work”.

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