How did you get into the rail industry (was it by choice or “accident”)?
My brother worked in the rail industry and suggested I tried either a temp or permanent role when I was in between jobs after university.
What do you do? Tell us about your career to date.
I work as a Coss (Controller of Site Safety) in possession support (PSS) and also strapping. I have just finished my Coss recertification. I started with being an assistant in blocking and strapping. I provided support duties to help protect the worksite from trains. I found it really interesting and easy to understand, went on to the next level and also did my qualification course. I’ve been doing this for 3 years.
What is a typical day/night?
Given the type of work I do, it is all night time work to avoid disruption to passengers. When I return off maternity leave, I will need to look at other options for during the day to share parenting duties with my partner, who also works in the industry.
Whilst I was pregnant and not on the track, I still worked with the team by being the mini-bus driver.
What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging?
As a woman, having to prove you can do it. For example, men offering to carry stuff for me and treating me differently. It is rare to find females on track. It is very male dominated and sometimes that can make it difficult but you just have to have a strong character. They are boisterous and can use strong language but if there were more women on the track, the guys might be different.
When I became pregnant, I had to take a step back a little and did less than I used to. I worked up to around 4 months and then had to stop. It was too much of a risk to be out on track as long as I would have wanted to be (ie beyond that 4 months) e.g. the risk of slipping or tripping and even when isolating the electrical current on the 3rd rail (the strapping). The role needs lifting heavy materials and bending.
What do you like the most about your job/the rail industry?
It is varied even on a day to day basis and even on the same site. There is constant change and variation. There is no chance of getting bored!
What made/makes you stay in the rail sector?
The railways are always going to be there. It can give you a great career if you want it and a variety of different roles/jobs. Everything from planning, making, maintaining. As it is constantly changing, it always has work that is needed done and if you want to progress, the opportunities are there too.
What do you think could be improved within the rail industry for you personally?
On worksites, welfare facilities are really key i.e. toilet facilities, tea and coffee facilities too. As a contractor, not everything is the same as if I was employed directly but Network Rail is really good on providing these facilities for everyone.
What do you think the rail industry should start doing, stop doing or continue to do to support women within the rail industry?
Definitely the welfare facilities. When I was pregnant, obviously being near toilet facilities was really important but having them nearby and a little of having to train myself too helped.
Also using women more as spokespeople on internal and external adverts and campaigns. We need to be more publicly seen.
What about to attract more women within the rail sector?
Firstly, knowing that there are other women out there, especially on the track would help. And being clear about how women can get on e.g. through apprenticeships. Just to understand how you could have a career in rail would be great.
What would you say to a young graduate/woman considering a career in rail?
There are so many different routes, options and choices in all sectors but we will always need transport and the ability to move goods around. There are so many roles in the rail sector to choose from: accountant, project manager, planning, maintenance, engineering… you could look after anything from tree cutting to highway maintenance and can be involved with so many people and different aspects of the industry.
What would you say is the biggest achievement of your career to date?
Every site I have worked on has always been very positive about both my role and me in particular and I am often requested to come back on site which is a great achievement, especially as a female!
Why did you join Women in Rail? What would you say are the benefits of joining the group?
I am not a member yet but it is great that there is a group/support network for us to have and a fantastic way to communicate across the industry.
Interviewed March 2017