Hello and welcome to the Women in Rail South Regional Group!

Samyutha and Ruth have recently taken over as leads for Women in Rail South and would like to warmly welcome you to the group.

We want to support and empower women from across our network to develop personally and professionally, build confidence, and make connections across companies that will make our sector stronger.  We also welcome men to become part of the group and participate in events – real equality, diversity and inclusion requires all of us to come together.

The Southern Group covers the South and South West including: Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucester, Bristol, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

The group is led by Ruth Busby (HR Director, GWR) and Samyutha Bala (Head of Customer Experience, GWR), supported by a Steering Committee including: Ebony Soltani-James of ESJ Smart Marketing; Vicky Ager of Amey; Jenny Simms of Colas Rail; Anna Carder of Network Rail Wessex; and Allison Phillips, an experienced leader in rail.

We always welcome new ideas and energy and would warmly welcome volunteers to the Women in Rail South Committee.  If you are interested, please do let us know. 

We are all volunteers, collectively representing a cross section of the railway industry in the South region and are passionate about working with men, women, and like-minded organisations to support the diversity and inclusion ambitions championed by Women in Rail.

To make sure you do not miss out on any of these activities organised by the WR South Group please register on the Contact Us page and join the Women in Rail community in the Southern region. Membership is completely free and will give you access to the local and national events organised by the team.

Hope to see you soon!

Ruth and Sam

Email: South@womeninrail.org

Ruth Busby, HR Director, Great Western Railway

Ruth joined the rail industry in 2018 as HR Director for GWR and has championed the people agenda since her arrival.  At the heart of the agenda is connecting the understanding of how people drive business success with the importance of kindness and empathy.

Achieving inclusion and diversity is a passion for Ruth and has been a key feature throughout her career.  Before joining GWR Ruth worked in several sectors including defence, higher education, and the civil service.  Ruth is a qualified leadership coach, a Chartered Member of the CIPD, and trained mediator.

Ruth is delighted to be working with Sam to chair the WR South Group and is excited about the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the region.

Samyutha Bala, Head of Customer Experience, Great Western Railway.

Samyutha (Sam) joined GWR and the rail industry in 2014, after a varied career including stints in theatre, project management and as a dentist. She started off dispatching trains at London Paddington and has held a variety of roles in the 6 years she has been with GWR. She was a founding member and co-chair of GWR’s Women’s staff network and is passionate about the amazing role women play in the rail industry. She is looking forward to working with Ruth and the WR South Group and meeting some brilliant women and men who believe in a common cause.

Anna Carder, Head of HR - Wessex, Network Rail

Anna Carder is a Head of HR on Network Rail’s Wessex Route which consists over 1700 employees across 1,300 miles of track. She is passionate about driving a customer focused and caring HR function.

Prior to joining Network Rail in 2017, Anna worked in Siemens Rail Systems mobilising the Siemens Thameslink rolling stock maintenance contract as HR Business Partner. Anna has over 14 years HR experience in a variety of industries. When not at work she loves spending time with her family, walking her dog and planning her next holiday.

Sutopa Paul, Senior Production Manager, GWR

Sutopa is currently a Senior Production Manager at Great Western Railway, responsible for three outstations where fleets are maintained in the London & Thames Valley Region. She joined the railways in 2011 when she undertook a placement year with Rail Delivery Group, and then went onto join the First Group graduate scheme after completing her degree in Aerospace Engineering. She has since then worked in both technical and commercial capacities and has been part of introducing 45 new electric trains and the Heathrow Express Airport Service. Sutopa is now a Chartered Engineer and continues to engage with the community in mentoring and promoting STEM careers to women.

Gemma Byrne, Driver Learning Manager (Training), GWR

Gemma joined GWR in 2014 as a Train Driver based in Westbury, Wiltshire. She has since joined the Driver Learning and Development team and is currently a Driver Learning Manager responsible for delivering a wide range of training and assessment for drivers and occasionally other grades in the business. This role is the first point of contact for candidates undergoing training for traction conversions, initial driver training and additional development sessions to the driver community. Gemma feels strongly that her visibility in this function is important to encourage greater numbers of women to join the railway, take on roles in historically predominantly male workplaces and reach for senior roles with the industry.

Rachel Avenell, Communications and Engagement Specialist, Rail Delivery Group

Rachel joined RDG in 2019 as a PMO Analyst before undertaking a secondment as an Internal Communications and Engagement Specialist, which has since turned into a permanent role. Rachel passionately believes in delivering a high quality employee experience, driven by creating an inclusive working environment for all.

Rachel is a champion of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, using her own experiences to ensure others feel confident to open up and know where to go if they need support. She is also an active ally for the employee networks across RDG, chairing the Inclusion Forum and working hard to identify opportunities to create a more equal and diverse workplace.

Before joining the rail industry, Rachel was an English teacher and believes her passion for improving the people experience stems from working with young people and wanting them to feel safe and confident as they navigated their way through secondary school.

Claire Weston, Head of Driver Training and Development, Great Western Railway

Claire joined South West Trains in 1997 as a Ticket Office clerk (CO2). She then became a Commercial Guard in 1999. She did this for 5 years then went on to become a Traincrew Supervisor (TCS). After 4 years Claire was displaced from that role, so she applied to become a Train Driver at Bournemouth in 2009 (and fortunately was successful). In 2018 she progressed her career to become a Driver Manager and in 2019 Claire was promoted to Driver Depot Manager at Salisbury, Basingstoke and Yeovil. More recently she has been appointed as the Head of Driver Training and Development for GWR. Claire has worked the majority of her railway career (coming up to 25 years in June!) in Operations and has seen many changes within the function but would love to see even more diversity especially within Drivers.

Claire is married with a 10 year old son and a pug called Frankie who take up all of her free time!

Rachel Jefferies, Senior CRM Manager, GWR

Rachel is the Senior CRM Manager at GWR responsible for the strategic direction of the business’s customer relationship marketing. She is a member of Women in Transport helping to support, collaborate and champion herself across the transport workforce, ensuring equality and fairness.

She has worked in rail for 10 years, previously leading CRM excellence in the automotive, finance and IT sectors. Rachel is passionate about spreading the word, helping others and making a difference. She recently won the Innovation award at GWR and was runner up at the Amazon Everywoman as a Leader in the Customer and Passenger category and shortlisted at NRA for Outstanding Personal Contribution.

She’s hugely excited to join the group and contribute her time to connect, support with more colleagues across the region and beyond.

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