Opinion: How mentoring supports diversity in the rail sector

Opinion: How mentoring supports diversity in the rail sector
18 August 2021

Mentoring helps the rail industry retain talent and find talented individuals at risk of being overlooked.

“I was thrilled when she was offered the role. Coming from the care sector, hers was not a typical route into the rail industry. But I could see she had something to offer.” Carolyn Salmon, a Lead Assessor and Signatory in our UK team, is reflecting on her first year in the Women in Rail Mentoring Programme.

In February 2020 Carolyn was matched with a mentee who was finding it difficult gaining a foothold in the industry despite self-funding her way through an engineering course and displaying a clear passion for rail.

“She had qualifications from her training course and was gaining occasional nightshift trackwork experience on a zero-hours contract, but she was fitting everything around her main job in the care sector”.

“She had sent out several applications for rail engineering roles without success and was beginning to worry that her experience was not seen as relevant enough”.

Under the Women In Rail cross-industry mentoring programme, however, Carolyn and her mentee were able start from a clean page.

They drafted a CV showcasing all the transferable skills she had to offer: a natural attention to detail, for example, that she had nurtured in the care sector.

They also researched rail career websites together and targeted her next applications. Once some promising opportunities emerged they moved on to mock interviews to prepare for an ultimately successful meeting with her future employer.

Mentor programme

Carolyn’s involvement in the programme derives from Ricardo’s long-term relationship with the UK-based Women in Rail networking group.

In 2020 we became a founding signatory of the 'Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Charter', an initiative from Women in Rail and the Railway Industry Association to encourage organisations to be more transparent about their work in equality and diversity, such as maintaining EDI Plans and Progress Reports.
Mentoring is an important part of that work. The Women In Rail cross-industry mentoring programme - which is open to female and male participants - provides a platform for women and men in UK rail to champion diverse thinking, support cross-fertilisation of ideas and promote diversity in the sector. It also gives our colleagues an opportunity to work with talented individuals who may otherwise leave the sector or, as with Carolyn's mentee, have been overlooked entirely.



 

Not just for new entrants

And mentoring is not only focused on new entrants. This year, Ricardo mentors are working with individuals looking to take the next step in the management ladder.

Meanwhile, some of our own consultants have been matched with mentors from other organisations who can act as sounding boards and talk candidly about their experiences.

“Everyone has different needs at different stages of their careers” says Carolyn. “Younger people might simply need help accessing IT equipment. My mentee had a tablet, but many application sites are not designed for completing forms and submitting attachments via a mobile device”.

“To give someone that steer, to help them find their place in the industry, it was such a rewarding experience”.

To find out more about the Women in Rail Mentoring Programme click here: https://womeninrail.org/mentoring

This article is an extracted from a more detailed article - 'Get on board - tackling rail's EDI challenge', a Modern Railways special supplement, published in the July 2021 edition.