100 years ago marked a significant moment in transport history. As the First World War raged on, large numbers of men enlisted for military service and by the end of 1919, 49% of London Underground’s and 59% of London General Omnibus Company’s male staff had enlisted.
To keep London and the UK moving, women took over the responsibilities of male transport staff in a wide range of roles – from conductors to mechanics, station staff to engineers- and when Maida Vale station opened in June 1915 as part of the Bakerloo line extension, it was staffed entirely by women. Over the course of the war, more than 100,000 women had joined the transport industry. This was the catalyst that was to change the role of women, not only in transport, but in society as a whole, for good.
To celebrate this milestone, 100 Years of Women in Transport (YOWIT) was launched in November 2014, with representatives from across transport coming together to make a commitment to change. Transport for London, in partnership with Network Rail, the Department for Transport (DfT), Crossrail Ltd, Women’s Engineering Society (WES), Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), London Transport Museum and a host of sponsors, has collaborated on a number of events, activities and initiatives over the past year to implement and drive this change.
The aim of the campaign has been to celebrate the important role of women in our industry and to engage, motivate and inspire current and future generations of transport workers, particularly women. The campaign has provided an opportunity to reflect on the current gender diversity of transport and has been a platform for action to enhance it. Ultimately, the campaign was launched in order to strengthen the transport industry so that it reflects London’s and the UK’s demographics, contributes to the wider economy and is positioned to respond to the significant operational and delivery challenges the industry now faces.
Over the course of the year, YOWIT has run a series of insight sessions where inspirational women have shared their experiences and given invaluable advice. Speakers have included the Olympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a cross-bencher in the House of Lords and TfL Board member, who focused on her experience as an athlete, and Suzi Donoghue, Commanding Officer in the Royal Logistic Corps who shared her thoughts on leadership and progression in a ‘man’s world.’
Other events have included industry debates on topics such as, “how effective is the term ‘feminist’ in bringing about change?”, networking workshops, panel discussions, and speed mentoring evenings which have given staff from across transport the opportunity to engage with, seek advice from, and network with, senior figures from across the industry. These events have all been a means of supporting the personal development and progression of staff from all levels of the industry.
We have also engaged extensively with schools, teachers and young people in order to spread the word of the benefits a career in transport can provide. Our network of over 10,000 industry Champions, which has been mobilised over the course of the campaign, and continues to grow, have spread the word on social media, have volunteered their time to visit schools, have provided work experience placements for young people and have presented at careers fairs, to mention but a few.
A number of initiatives which have been launched to improve our engagement with young people have included a Bring your Daughter to work day and a nationwide schools debating competition, in which just fewer than 30 schools took part this year. The top four performing teams were awarded a once in a lifetime opportunity to debate at the House of Lords and the winning team from St. Marylebone School, won a cab ride on a London Underground tube train.
As the centenary anniversary nears its end, the campaign is now rolling into a legacy and an exciting programme of events is on the cards for 2016.
As in 2015, we will be running a number of industry-wide insight sessions, debates, workshops, panel sessions and speed mentoring evenings which are open to all. We are also engaging with schools and commissioning a research piece so that we can develop a toolkit for teachers, parents and students. This toolkit will be launched at an event in spring 2016, and will provide industry Champions from across the transport industry with the means to engage with young people in a meaningful and consistent way.
For more information about the programme visit: www.tfl.gov.uk/YOWIT and follow @transportwmn on Twitter. You can also email: [email protected] and the team will be happy to answer any questions as well as add you to our distribution list so that you can receive our monthly newsletter and event invites.