Celebrating the achievements of women across the built environment industry

Tuesday 8th March 2022 marks International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates the achievements of women and marks a call to action to accelerate women’s equality. International Women’s Day has been marked for over a century, with the first gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, it belongs to all groups everywhere, not country, group, or organisation specific.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, advocating a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equal, and inclusive.

Today we sit down with two of our successfully placed female candidates. Both have found placements within the rail sector as Specialist Consultants and Safety Assurance Engineers. They’ve spoken to us about their experiences and achievements in their chosen fields.

When did you first consider pursuing this career?

Nicky – Well I didn’t really plan on doing this career. A friend sent through a short-term opportunity which was so interesting. I found I met most of the criteria they were looking for, apart from sector knowledge/experience. Using an agency like Advance TRS helped me see that I had transferrable skills that I could use across sectors. Their knowledge gave me the confidence in my capabilities when I couldn’t see them myself, which was really encouraging.

Ria – I’ve actually been in the rail sector for 12+ years now. Originally, I was working in the aviation and maritime industry, but then offered a new opportunity when my company moved offices. I felt this was quite a good move to make, I had skills that could be transferred across, just had to learn more about the rail industry and technical aspects.

What was your experience of entering the industry?

Nicky – It was good. I found the industry and people very welcoming and didn’t feel like there were any barriers holding me back.

Ria – Generally very smooth sailing. Early on in my career as a junior it could get a bit intimidating being the only woman and have your voice heard, but on the whole, there were never any hindrances.

What made you want to pursue/continue with this career choice?

Nicky – I enjoyed the prospect of being challenged by something new, it was a good opportunity. The scale of projects is interesting; you’re involved in something that is there for years to come. I feel rewarded knowing that I’m making a difference to people’s lives, or making their journeys easier. I also get to work with world class engineers, highly specialised in their roles and incredibly knowledgeable, it’s very fulfilling work.

How important is diversity and inclusivity when you are job searching?

Nicky – This is always at the top of my list. We all have different circumstances, situations, backgrounds etc and the industry needs to be, and generally is, very understanding of that. It’s so important to feel part of a diverse workplace, where you can be heard, no matter what your experiences, or where you are with your life or career.

Ria – At the start of my career it wasn’t something I really thought about, however I was aware that I was one of very few women, and the only woman of colour. In recent job searches I am more aware of it and have noticed a lot of progress, lots more inclusion/diversity. However, I have still seen instances where for example a job description is written in the male pronoun, using “he”.

STEM Women have compiled an in-depth Whitepaper that explored students’ and graduates’ attitudes towards gender issues that are prevalent within STEM.

The report found that from 2019 to 2021, the percentage of respondents that see diversity initiatives as extremely or very important when accepting job offers rose from 74% in 2019, to 83% in 2020 and 89% in 2021.

From 2019 to 2021, the number of respondents who said that the gender balance of a company would influence whether they would accept a job offer rose from 54% to 67%, that’s an increase of 13%.

What would you say is your greatest professional achievement so far?

Nicky – I’ve been very fortunate to work on several ground-breaking campaigns, introducing new technologies, working with amazing teams and clients. Even though I might have played a small part in the project, it’s so rewarding to see the result and know you’ve been a part of that. Balancing work and family life is also something I feel proud of.

Ria – Completing my master’s degree in Railway Systems Engineering & Integration. I completed this whilst working full time, studying part-time and expecting my first child. It was a lot to take on but brought a lot of value and additional knowledge that I didn’t have before.

How would you describe your experience of being a woman in your industry?

Nicky – While diversity and gender balance are improving, engineering is still a male dominated sector and you’re sometimes aware that you are working in an environment where you are the minority. However, I’ve never had any negative experiences or felt like being a woman is an issue. I’ve seen a big improvement in equality and more women are coming into the industry. There are many opportunities for women to enter and it’s good to see a greater variety of roles beyond engineering. This includes senior roles, management roles and apprenticeships.

Ria – It’s never felt like a barrier. You have to find your voice and fight for what you believe in, not afraid to say how you feel. I do feel like my degree has helped empower me and prove to people that I do know what I’m talking about.

STEM’s report also found that in 2021, 57% of respondents said they had suffered from or experienced imposter syndrome. Many highlighted that this arose from feeling like the ‘odd one out.’ To read the full article click here.

Have you been given any advice that has helped shape your career?

Nicky – As early as possible, find your niche. If you can find something you enjoy doing, get really good at doing it. It took me a while to understand what that means/what that is but try anything! Don’t be afraid to try different things to narrow down what it is that you’re looking for. Also, take opportunities when they present themselves, until you try – you don’t know.

Ria – I don’t think there has been any specific advice, but I did have a mentor that really supported me. She helped me navigate and overcome challenges that I was having and encouraged me in recognising my achievements. Sometimes it’s hard to recognise these in yourself but she really saw the best in me. It’s hard to explain the value and impact this had on my career.

Do you have any female role models that have encouraged you in your career?

Nicky – Yes, I have a strong network of men and women and I’ve received some great advice from them throughout my life and career. I always listen carefully and learn from them – to take on board their suggestions and advice and carry it forward in what I do. It’s important to welcome and consider any feedback you receive – from everyone.

Ria – I’ve got a good friend who’s a chartered engineer in a senior role. She’s also a mum of 2 so it’s really inspiring to see someone else managing both career and motherhood. It helps me recognise what I can achieve myself. I also think having a female support network around you is so important. Having people looking out for you and wanting the best for you is really encouraging.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to women considering a career in your sector?

Nicky – You must find your voice, find confidence in what you do and how you do it. In this sector you’ve got to be quite versatile and be able to think on your feet. Do what you can to get as much experience behind you as possible, so you’ll feel more confident and able to succeed. Create a support network. Build your own personal brand! There are many opportunities, go for it!

Ria – It’s a globally growing industry, with many projects starting up. This sector needs female intelligence, the way we think and being able to provide a different perspective. Believe in yourself and challenge yourself, don’t be afraid to go for it – take a chance!

Why Advance TRS?

At Advance TRS, we believe everyone deserves the same opportunities, regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. The diversity of our workforce is an essential part of our success. As such, we are committed to supporting contractors and staff to work in an environment that is free from discrimination and promotes equal opportunities for all.

We are a niche recruitment consultancy specialising in the provision of highly skilled technical professionals for the built environment. We provide permanent, contract and temporary recruitment solutions to both candidates and clients across several key technical sectors including rail, construction and water & environment services.

Since its establishment in 2011, the company has shown remarkable growth, delivering MSPs and RPOs for some of the biggest businesses in the built environment. The team continue to work closely together to deliver honest, reliable solutions to clients and candidates.

Take a look at our job board for our latest vacancies.

The latest news this week in the Rail Industry


Andrew Haines and the future of UK rail

Andrew Haines recently joined Network Rail as its new chief executive, replacing Mark Carne who had held the post since January 2014. Read more…

My life in rail: Caitlin Gent

For the first in a new series meeting rail staff at different stages of their careers, we sat down with rising rail apprentice Caitlin Gent. Read more…

Industry welcomes Rail Ombudsman

THE new Rail Ombudsman starts work today, with the aim of providing an independent judge of whether rail passengers’ complaints are justified. Read more…

Thameslink director appointed as East West Rail’s first CEO

East West Rail has announced its first chief executive as Simon Blanchflower, the programme director for Thameslink. Read more…

Major overhaul of one of country’s longest tunnels sees delays fall by a fifth

A major refurbishment of Sevenoaks tunnel has seen a 20% reduction in delays and halved journey times for passengers, even as the £21m infrastructure renewal nears completion. Read more…


Browse our latest rail jobs here.

Register for job alerts here.


With just 16% of jobs in rail filled by women, we need to understand how we can encourage others to join the industry and not just attract women to the railway, but also to keep, develop and promote them.

This was the key message shared at the launch of the Women in Rail South division, held in September at the Bath Function Rooms.

Set in the particularly fitting re-purposed old Green Park Railway Station in Bath, a mix of men and women from across the industry met to celebrate the launch of Women in Rail South.

Attendees heard from inspiring women working in a varied range of roles across the region, including Anna Delvecchio – Commercial Account Director for Amey, Joanna Whittington – Chief Executive Office of Rail and Road, Rajinder Pryor – Network Rail and Estelle Whittaker – CCO Achilles to name but a few.

In total, eight women shared their personal experience of working within the industry and told stories of why they love working in the rail sector.

From being part of an essential network underpinning the economic activity of the country to inspiring changes in attitudes and enjoying flexible working opportunities and the fantastic opportunity for promotion and personal development, each speaker shared their own reasons for loving being women in rail.

Inspiring speeches sparked interesting debate around what Women in Rail and the industry in general can do to close thegender gap in the railway sector, including;

  • Raising the profile of rail as a sector and engineering to school children
  • Boosting the profile of the rail industry to attract women to the sector
  • The need for male champions to further women in the industry
  • Flexible working/job shares and shared paternity leave
  • Celebrating the success / raising the profile of successful women as champions of the sector

But it wasn’t all serious talk, with networking drinks following the inspiring speeches, which provided a great opportunity to make new connections with people from all across the sector disciplines.

The evening proved to be a fantastic opportunity for members to meet others who live and work in the area, develop their professional network and engage with key industry leaders.

Are you looking for your next move in the rail sector? For our latest rail jobs, to register for job alerts straight to your inbox or view our live jobs here.

To find out more about Women in Rail and become a member, please visit: https://lnkd.in/eW6ApbG  

Women In Rail was a strong topic at our recent visit to Infrarail 2018 at ExCel London. The skills gap is an increasingly important issue worldwide and it is particularly noticeable in the rail industry, as we heard from Adeline Ginn at Infrarail in her presentation to us about Women In Rail. Here are a few facts and information highlighted from the Women In Rail talk.

Adeline started off her presentation with a quote from Sharmaine Lovegrove ‘If you don’t have a diverse workforce or product, sooner or later you won’t exist’ which really ties in nicely with Advance TRS’s core values as a recruitment company, and also goes with our internal recruitment beliefs.

It is proven that diverse teams work better and give greater innovation and creativity. UK statistics are as follows with women on the Board of Directors:

  • 42% higher return on sales in the UK
  • 66% higher return on invested capital
  • 53% higher return on equity

The perception of rail as a masculine industry has been identified as a big impact factor preventing women from joining the sector. Women seem to fall into rail by accident rather than by choice. Engineering is often a misunderstood role and girls as young as 7 years old have an unconscious bias misconception of rail. This is where Women In Rail are keen to make a change, helping children at a young age understand the sector fully before misconception sets in.

Here are some more surprising figures we gained from Adeline:

  • 16.4% of the workforce are women
  • 78% of this number are in non-manager roles
  • 2% are senior managers
  • 4% are engineers

Some challenges that Women In Rail have noticed and want to help change are Working practices (women might need flexible working and not long days) and recruitment targeting men.

Women In Rail have already started many initiatives to help with this, including a mentoring programme, networking events, networking platform, campaigns, an online hub for women and many others.

This year, they celebrated their first Women In Rail Awards which was a great success with over 130 attendees from across the rail industry. It showcased individuals, teams and companies (large or small) who in the last 5 years have done amazing work to improve gender balance, diversity and inclusion in the UK railway industry. We look forward to seeing the continued growth and success of this!

Advance TRS are committed to supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We are careful to check for bias in our job adverts to ensure that women are not excluded. Within the recruitment sector, we realise that women and men even look at job adverts differently. If a job advert is published, sometimes it can be directed towards men just by the simple wording, which could put a woman off straight away and they may disregard it.

We believe in delivering the very best candidates for our clients. By excluding 50% of the workforce, you may miss out on the best person for the job. So it is our job to make sure we are including absolutely everyone possible into our candidate searches.

Explore our latest jobs here.