Female engineers who work to provide a better, more reliable railway for passengers in the east of England have thrown their support behind Women in Engineering Day on Tuesday June 23.
Set up by the Women’s Engineering Society, the national day is designed to raise the profile of engineering and to encourage more women to join the industry.
Network Rail has set a target of increasing the proportion of women in the firm from around 14 per cent currently, to 30 per cent in future.
Network Rail’s director of diversity and inclusion, Loraine Martins, said: “The railway industry is a great place to work and I encourage all women, and particularly those young women who are choosing their topics to study, to see the railway and engineering as exciting and rewarding environments.
“Diversity and inclusion is important in our sector particularly if you are serious about improving performance and safety. We know that where you have a diverse workforce you get greater creativity and innovation, and where you are inclusive you attract the best people. And we want the best people to join us to help deliver our ambitious plans for the future or our railway.”
Among the initiatives set up by Network Rail to make the business more attractive to women, are a women’s staff network and a flexible working policy, designed to help overcome a significant barrier for women in the workplace.
The company is also a key partner in the Women in Rail group, which was set up specifically to provide networking opportunities and support for all women within the UK rail industry.
Eliane Algaard is director of route asset management for the railway for Anglia, which includes Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Her team manages major infrastructure upgrades from renewing track, overhead lines and upgrading level crossings in the region. She is a chartered civil engineer and joined Network Rail in 2008.
Eliane explained what sparked her interest. She said: “As a child, I was always fascinated by what ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians had managed to build. I was always very keen to understand how things worked and had a strong interest in scientific subjects when at school.
“Engineering is fundamental to people’s lives both at a personal and societal level and everything we do has a real, tangible impact.
“The railway in the east of England is connecting growing numbers of people and businesses. Balancing the development of a long-term strategy for the railway with today's needs to improve performance is one of the elements I most enjoy about my role.”
Alison Rose is a civil engineering graduate at Network Rail. She joined the company two years ago after graduating with a civil engineering degree and now works on projects to deliver a better, more reliable railway for passengers in the east of England.
“Back at school someone suggested engineering to me and I realised it was a great way to apply maths and science while being creative and solving problems. Engineering is evident all around you, it’s so tangible and so the more I learned the more interested I became.
“I love working in the railway because pretty much everyone has travelled by train and so it all feels so real. You are working to not only keep trains running every day but to improve rail travel by making it faster and safer, which is something pretty much everyone in the UK would want.”
Alison is an ambassador for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic Network and visits schools to promote engineering as a career for both boys and girls. She added: “Don’t be put off by its ‘manly’ exterior; women have a great deal to offer in this industry.
“We have a different set of skills to men and often go about problems differently. Engineering is a great way to use subjects like maths, science and technology by applying these subjects to everyday problems.”
Nastassia Chew is an asset engineer at Network Rail and is responsible for managing structures across the east of England. She joined Network Rail in 2005 as a graduate.
“I first became interested in engineering when taking my A-Levels. Further research into the field led me to understand that civil engineering was a great problem solving industry allowing me to incorporate my interest in mathematics and science.
“Looking at various infrastructure examples provided me with inspiration to make my final decision to study civil engineering at University.
“Engineering allows for the realisation of various ideas and enables people to live their lives conveniently and effectively. Engineers work for the benefit of society creating and building infrastructure that serves a purpose.
“There are many different fields of engineering and further research into these areas is beneficial in determining if it is the subject for you. As well as researching the subject try and arrange a placement in a company to learn more about the industry from within. Ask the questions as the decision will dictate your future.”
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