In 2019, only a quarter of employees working in core Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) industries were women. A need to address this imbalance led to Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) creating Women in STEM, a project designed to address gender bias and banish stereotypes that certain roles were only suited to men. The initiative looked at ways to encourage more women and girls to join STEM roles in these industries, and opportunities to promote their views of these exciting roles within rail.

What happened

A key element of the scheme was empowering women and girls from a wide range of ages and backgrounds to communicate and share their views to rail industry stakeholders, ensuring that rail genuinely embraces equality, diversity, and inclusivity as it continues to grow. CRL recognised that by promoting and championing the voices of women and girls, the project could help shape the future of rail as an attractive option for travel and employment for all women.

Sessions included a meeting with female Merseyrail staff in a group interview scenario, confidence-building rail trips for women who spoke English as an additional language, art sessions around gender balance for younger entrants including Brownies, guided sessions for young women with disabilities, trips to engineering depots with university groups, and LGBTQIA+ inclusive sessions around inclusion related to gender identities. All sessions focused on the STEM and technical roles within rail, giving participants valuable insights into that side of the industry.

Results

More than 300 women and girls took part in the project, using the sessions to create writing and artwork pieces to express their views on issues important to them, including making rail inclusive, gender balance, and mental health. Rail industry professionals selected winners from hundreds of entries, with 32 authors and artists invited to an inspiring celebratory event at the National Railway Museum in York. The project promoted community rail, as well as the need for greater gender balance in rail and across STEM, through coverage in a wide range of publications including Rail Staff magazine, The Manchester Evening News and The Liverpool Echo, and via a piece with the Manchester United Foundation in the club’s official matchday programme, raising awareness of the project to thousands of fans.