Women in Community Rail (WiCR) was established to help support colleagues in the community rail family work towards a more inclusive, tolerant, and diverse membership, giving a true reflection of its customers and the wider make-up of society. The aim for women in community rail is to have a voice from grass-roots up to board level, while bringing everyone collectively on a journey to ‘Achieve Change Together’.
A steering group made up of twelve like-minded individuals came together from community rail partnerships, station adoption groups, local authorities, and train operating companies, with a shared ambition to bring about positive change. WiCR was subsequently established primarily to address diversity and inclusivity imbalances within community rail.
Funding was secured via a Seedcorn application with the group continually working towards several objectives;
- becoming recognised as a strategic player across the rail industry and a recognised consultee
- sharing knowledge and expertise on how to encourage gender balance
- creating a mentoring and support network for all colleagues throughout the industry
- increasing inclusivity within community rail
- encouraging younger people to consider a career in community rail
- sharing best practice across the wider industry and business sector
In the space of two years, the group has grown to over sixty members, including both men and women, with a 28% male to 72% female split. WiCR states that it fulfils a vital function in providing support, encouragement, and assistance in the advancement of women in what has typically been perceived as a male-dominated industry. WiCR participates in many events and seminars across the country, helping to build support networks for women already working in community rail and the rail industry, as well as helping women find and forge a new career.
To date, the group has representation on the Community Rail Network board, the Community Rail Executive Group (ComREG), and holds the position of chair of the West Lancashire, East Lancashire, and the Clitheroe Line Community Rail Partnership.
WiCR has organised and delivered two successful training events for members across the country, dealing with topics of “unconscious bias/breaking down barriers” and “challenging inappropriate behaviour.” Attendance at the training events showed an average of 40% male and 60% female. The group said that learning outcomes helped members to build their confidence and ability to recognise and identify different types of behaviour. Real-life case studies were used alongside shared assertiveness techniques to again increase confidence and skills. A range of strategies were also shared in relation to challenging difficult behaviour.
Using feedback from the training events, WiCR is in the process of developing a code of conduct that can be adopted by all members of the community rail family and used as a tool to challenge inappropriate behaviour. The draft version currently states;
I/We will at all times;
- promote positive relationships and discussions
- ensure that no member acts in such a manner that brings community rail into disrepute
- ensure that each person in community rail actively encourages diversity and inclusion and welcomes all
- challenge bullying, harassment, intimidation, and all negative behaviour at all times
- value others by listening and not making assumptions
The group sends out regular e-blasts to members, attends promotional events, visits rail user groups and community rail partnerships, and supports initiatives such as ‘Women Who Wander’ and ‘Amazing Women by Rail.’ The team has also been contacted by a group in Australia asking for advice and guidance on how to share their expertise and best practice across the globe.
A WiCR spokesperson said: “The collaborative approach from representatives and partners across the community rail movement via WiCR shows an appetite and eagerness to support and change, where appropriate, how and why we do things. The social and economic benefits associated with diversity and inclusiveness are well-evidenced, and the strong desire to influence positive change is clear.”