TP Day Campaign 2021 - We need more female transport planners to create an inclusive transport system

If we want to make transport more inclusive, then we need a diverse transport planning profession. Transport companies need to reflect the public they serve. I am writing this blog as part of this year’s Transport Planning Day campaign which has the theme of equality, diversity and inclusion.

I work for Network Rail where only 18% of the workforce are female as per 2019 data. By 2024 Network Rail plans to achieve 26% of females in our workforce, and of that, 30% in leadership positions. This is a significant step change in the rail industry and there are lots of workstreams in place that aim to address not only the lack of females in the industry, but also the lack of representation of other protected characteristics in the industry. To read Network Rail’s Everyone Matters diversity and inclusion strategy for this control period please visit

For this blog, I have decided to interview four females in my team to find out why they joined the fascinating world of transport, and in our case Network Rail, with the hope to inspire other females to join the transport industry.

What is your educational background?

Amy: BA Geography & Sociology at University of Leeds

Kyle: BA Geography & Transport at University of Leeds and MSc in Transport Planning also at Leeds.

Hannah: BSc Mathematics at University of Bristol

Monika: BA in International Management, MA in Strategic Fashion Marketing and an MSc in Transport Planning and Management (University of Westminster)

How did you end up in transport?

Monika: I worked in the cycling industry for nearly a decade – a large part of my work involved marketing to cycling commuters. I became interested in transport behaviour change to inform my work and subsequently decided on a complete career change and did a MSc in Transport Planning. I always thought I would work in active travel but through my masters I realised what we need more of are people with a good understanding of active and sustainable travel working in different parts of the transport industry – this way we have a chance to deliver better transport system for the users/passengers and the environment.

Hannah: I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to enter after graduating but knew I did not want to go into finance. Therefore, I looked for graduate roles that had relevance to my maths degree. This was where I found the field of Transport Planning. After applying for a transport planning position with the engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald, I was offered a role as a Graduate Pedestrian Modeller. I have continued to specialise in the field of pedestrian planning for the last 5 years.

Kyle: I was excited to put all the theory into practice and there were a lot of people on my transport planning MSc course from consultancies, so I applied and got a job on one of their graduate schemes.

Why have you joined Network Rail?

Kyle: After working in consultancy, I had this real desire to be able to see projects through to completion rather than dipping in and out for different design stages. I wanted more influence over decision making and I felt I needed to be inside the organisation to do that.

Hannah: I was keen to join Network Rail to have the opportunity to make an actual difference to the journeys of passengers. Since joining, I have been involved in a range of projects, from installing seating in stations meeting the needs of passengers today, to planning for the long-term requirements of stations.

Monika: I wanted to challenge myself applying for a job that was completely outside of my comfort zone, i.e. not in cycling/active travel. I was also interested in gaining experience in transport modelling and the Passenger & Station Analysis team in Network Rail offered such an opportunity.

Amy: I have always had an interest in the processes shaping cities and urban planning, however when deciding to undertake a placement year at the beginning of my second year I genuinely had no set career path or direction in which I wanted to go specifically. Mostly, due to being unaware of the breadth of opportunities and jobs out there.

Now that you are in Network Rail, how do you feel about it?

Kyle: I think Network Rail has brilliant female role models in a range of positions and there is a real feeling that if you want to, you can. I was promoted while pregnant with my second child; what a brilliant way for me to role model that having a family does not need to restrict you as a woman in this industry.

Hannah: I have had a very positive experience in Network Rail. I have been given opportunities to learn new skills and progress in the field. As a woman, I measure equality by feeling that I am treated as a Lead Station Planner first and above anything else, which is how I feel within Network Rail.

Monika: It still is a “boys club” in many ways. I am often the only women on a call, I still get addressed as “gents” if I am the only woman in an email thread, I still get talked over and second guessed even when the answer I am giving is correct, I still haven’t met a female Network Rail employee who has been invited to the Friday football games. On the other hand, I have met many inspiring women in Network Rail that haven’t allowed any of this to get in their way, and Network Rail as a company is very vocal about the aspirations to tackle the status quo, which gives me confidence.

Amy: Whilst initially daunting due to the wealth of railway jargon and being a completely unknown industry to me, the speed at which I became gradually more familiar was reassuring. You soon realise how central the railway is to society, highlighted by the pandemic which showed how necessary the railway is to transport key workers to enable the continuation of much of everyday life. Alongside the everyday functionality of the railway network, the opportunities it holds for the future of the nation is immense. The transport sector will always be vital to how cities are built and the atmosphere at Network Rail has been such a welcoming and supportive one I believe it would be a suitable environment to develop both personally and professionally.

What would you say to pupils, apprentices or students that may be considering joining the transport industry?

Monika: Do it! We need more of you! We need people from all backgrounds and all kinds of lived experiences to make the transport system better work for its users.

Hannah: Go for it! There are lots of different routes into the transport industry: apprenticeships, graduate schemes and internships. Have a think about what interests you and look for opportunities that fulfil this. We want to build a railway network for everyone, and for this to be possible, we need our staff to be the representation of everyone in the public.

Kyle: Think about joining a company where you can see yourself staying for a while which for me would mean somewhere that is large with a variety of work. You’ll appreciate the experience you can gain from being around a range of individuals with different skills. Also, early on make efforts to network whether that be through mentoring schemes, joining societies/ networks, or just striking up conversations in the office. Those connections and conversations will really help you piece together how the industry works.

Amy: If you have an interest in politics, people and places then it’s an ideal industry to embark on. Before joining the industry, I wasn’t hugely aware of the traditionality of it being a largely male dominated industry, but don’t let that put you off. At times I have been sat in all-male meetings and whilst I do notice it, my attitude to work doesn’t change. If anything, it makes me feel proud to be representing the capabilities of women and remember that the presence of women in the transport industry will only grow! It’s a highly rewarding profession I think as you can be certain you’re implementing change, whether it be immediate or long-term and I get the impression that there are always new challenges ahead.

To end this blog, I would support the above: Join the transport industry for the many reasons stated. It is such a rewarding career to see how something you have worked on or suggested improves the lives of people travelling. Additionally, make sure you stay true to yourself, be persistent if you want to get something, keep challenging the status quo and make your voice heard – your voice is important, and it deserves to be heard.


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