Stobart Rail & Civils has gained a reputation as a business that invests in new solutions to drive safety and efficiency. Ballast undercutters, self-propelled jack & tamper units and tunnel vacuum cleaners are just a few examples.
The success of these innovations is down to Stobart’s people, and it is keen to increase the gender diversity of its workforce, particularly in managerial and technical roles, to help further meet the challenges ahead.
Women occupy a number of key positions at Stobart. This includes Rachel Burnett who leads the safety team behind Stobart’s Think Safety: Act Safely campaign.
Newly qualified quantity surveyor Abby Garcia, who now holds a leading role in the project delivery team, is one of a number of women in Stobart’s head office commercial team – 70 per cent of which are female.
As women are often underrepresented in engineering, Stobart was delighted to appoint Lynne Garner as engineering manager earlier this year. Lynne most recently worked as a senior engineer for Network Rail, creating bespoke maintenance regimes for track assets to optimise inspection and repair strategies. She previously managed rolling contact fatigue for the Liverpool & North Wales area following the Hatfield tragedy, which was caused by a metal fatigue-induced derailment. This led Lynne, who began her career as a project manager at Jarvis Rail, into managing the area’s ultrasonic testing teams and studying part-time at university to attain a degree in civil engineering. She now leads Stobart’s team of engineering specialists, ensuring excellence in project delivery.
Lynne said: “I’m an engineer primarily and being female is not something I’m usually conscious of.
“I believe having a gender mix brings good balance to teams, as women do bring different strengths. Being comfortable admitting your limitations means male colleagues are more confident to do this, and this leads to both a safer working environment and one in which people are more likely to support each other and develop.”
A partnership with Strathclyde
In Scotland, Stobart is building a new team to support its project work.
Regional manager Keith Robertson said: “Our key focus is to bring new talent into the rail industry through apprenticeships and our graduate training programmes. We have an ongoing relationship with Strathclyde University and we’re seeing some really impressive students – both male and female – so we’re working together to encourage them to consider starting their careers in rail.”
Michaela Silver-Woods is one of those students. She is currently on a summer placement with Stobart while studying for a master’s in civil and environmental engineering, despite initially considering a career in offshore renewables.
She said: “Keith Robertson came to Strathclyde to hold a workshop with the students and I enjoyed the work he showed us so I decided to ask him about summer placements.”
Stobart also offered a placement to Anouchka Valaydon, who is on the same course as Michaela and is keen to work in design.
Anouchka said: “Rail is not taught at most universities in Scotland, so a lot of new civil engineers are oblivious to the fact that rail is an option. I like the way that rail in the UK is constantly developing, such as the HS2 project. Hopefully in years to come there will be more women on site and people from all sorts of backgrounds.”
Michaela and Anouchka are getting valuable experience on site and in the office and have impressed staff with their contributions.
Michaela added: “I’m really enjoying the experience. Everyone’s been really positive, although sometimes there’s a bit of a double take if they weren’t expecting to see a woman. There are always going to be people who think women can’t do certain things and I’ve found that a lot of women engineers are overachievers because of it.”
Kirk Taylor, Stobart Rail & Civils’ managing director, added: “Michaela and Anouchka return to university in the autumn to complete their studies but we’ll keep in touch and we do hope to see them with us again in the future. We’ve always been a forward-thinking business that seeks out the best talent, no matter whether male or female, so I’m not surprised we already have so many women in key roles.
“Like many businesses, we still have some work to do to achieve complete gender equality, but we’re well on the way and team members like Lynne, Rachel, Abby and everyone else are great role models who clearly show that women can have rewarding careers in rail.”