MORE JOBS FOR THE GIRLS, SAYS RAIL CHIEF (Surrey / Hants): Apprentices on the learning track 003

Thursday 21 Jan 2010


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

Sexist and outdated public perceptions about job opportunities for women in the rail industry are a damaging barrier to building the bigger, better railway Britain needs, according to Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher.

Network Rail today launches a campaign to attract more talented women to the company, further improving the overall skills of the workforce and addressing the poor male/female balance. It will begin by aiming to attract more women to its award-winning apprenticeship scheme, which since its inception in 2005 has received only around 2% of applications from women.

Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail said: “The image of the railway as an old-fashioned, heavy industry is not the picture I see today. I see a modern company, using 21st century technology, needing a highly skilled workforce to maintain and deliver a successful and growing railway. We need more exceptional women to join us at Network Rail. I’m sure that they are being put off by an outdated image of what we do and what we need. This is a scandalous waste.

“All of us – industry, educators and government – must work harder to promote the fantastic career opportunities open to both men and women in the rail industry and engineering as a whole. If not, Britain will miss out on leading the world in this field.”

Rhianne Cakebread, 21, from Southampton joined Network Rail’s advanced apprenticeship scheme in 2007. Now in her final year, Rhianne is based at Network Rail’s Basingstoke depot where she is specialising in signalling and telecomms. She said: “The best thing about the apprenticeship scheme is that every day will be completely different.  It is really rewarding knowing that every job I do makes a difference and helps keep the railways running.”

In a recent GlideInsight survey for Network Rail, when asked who a career in railway engineering best suited, 47% of those polled said mainly or only men. When asked if enough was done in schools to promote a career in this area to women, 45% said unequivocally no, with nearly half agreeing that not enough is done.

Notes to editors

Network Rail statistics


  • 12.7% of Network Rail’s workforce is female (source: Corporate Responsibility report 2009)
  • Job applicants: In 2008/9 only 17% of external applicants were from women. (although a further 12% refused to disclose their sex)
  • In 2009, only 8% of applications to our graduate scheme for engineering functions were from women. This rises to 26% for other functions including commercial property, finance, customer services.
  • In 2009, only 19% of applications to the Network Rail MSc programme in project management run in conjunction with UCL and University of Warwick were from women.
  • Applications to the Network Rail Advanced Apprentice Scheme since 2005 average at 2%. The overall intake is just 4.4%.

Education in general

  • Only 13% of those studying engineering and technology degrees were women (source: The Recruiters Guide to Courses & Campuses 2009/10 – citing Higher Education Statistics Agency).
  • Women achieved better grades at graduate level than men gaining 56% of first class degrees and 61% of 2:1 class degrees.

The campaign

Network Rail will target its recruitment advertising to attract more female applicants. Actual female employees will appear in adverts to act as case studies with media buying focused specifically on publications and websites with a high female readership.

Schools with all-female students will be targeted with recruitment materials

In house HR teams will ‘recruit’ current female employees to visit career fairs and events to talk of their experiences.

A revamped Network Rail website for its apprentice scheme will include video blogs and profiles of current female apprentices, sharing their experience. See:

A media and public affairs programme of activity to highlight the opportunities available will support this programme. 

GlideInsight is a market research tool provided by Glide Technologies. It works with a leading panel research provider that supplies market research to companies like TNS, Ipsos Mori and GFK.
This partnership allows us to deliver statistically valid, nationally representative market research. See:

Contact information

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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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