100 Years of Women in Transport

Look out for details of for the forthcoming 100 YOWIT Insight Sessions Here.

Executive summary
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the First World War and a significant moment in the history of transport, when 100,000 women entered our industry to take on the responsibilities held by large numbers of men who enlisted for military service.
Transport for London (TfL) and its industry partners will use this opportunity, through the 100 Years of Women in Transport (100 YOWIT) programme, to celebrate the significant role that women have played in transport over the past 100 years. We will also reflect on the diversity of the current transport workforce and identify opportunities to enhance it through a variety of initiatives and activities.
Ultimately this is about strengthening our industry so that it reflects London’s demographics, contributes to the wider economy and is positioned to respond to the significant operational and delivery challenges we now face.

Objectives of 100 YOWIT
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, we will deliver a programme of activities focusing on three strategic objectives:
Objective 1 – Support our industry’s overall purpose and ability to respond to the significant challenges we face as a result of unprecedented levels of growth and development in London and across the UK.
Objective 2 – Contribute to building our industry’s brand as an ‘industry of choice’ for all, particularly women
Objective 3 – Contribute to London/UK society more widely
We will achieve this by:

  • Showcasing the significant contribution women have made and continue to make to the transport industry, drawing from examples from the past as well as from the present.
  • Attracting more women to join the transport workforce by reaching out to young women and setting out the variety of careers the industry has to offer.
  • Engaging, motivating and inspiring our female workforce and that of our supply chain by offering them opportunities for personal development and progression at all levels.
  • Establishing an industry-wide network of peers and mentors to ensure the delivery of a high impact, integrated programme with a legacy of continued improvement and development.

A century of women in transport
During the First World War, some 100,000 women joined the transport industry. London transport played a pivotal role during the war, providing staff and vehicles to take trips to the Western Front, and over 17,000 Tube, bus and Tram staff enlisted for military service. Women kept services running and London moving during that time.
With some reluctance, railway unions and management agreed to employ women to undertake all sorts of transport work which had previously only been available to men – from ticket inspectors and booking clerks to painters and guards – usually at equal pay to men. When Maida Vale station opened in June 1915 as part of the Bakerloo line extension, it was entirely staffed by women. By November of that year, London’s first woman tram conductor – Mrs G. Duncan – had started work on the route 37.
In common with other key home front industries, these pioneers changed attitudes towards the role of women and marked the beginning of the diversification of the transport workforce. Although many were asked to relinquish their roles after the war for returning soldiers, wartime employment gave women new opportunities and status.

It is, therefore, fitting to look back and recognise these trailblazers which, along with subsequent legislative successes over the years, changed things immeasurably for women in our workforce. From the appointment of the first female Transport Minister, Barbara Castle, in 1965 to equal pay rights in 1970 and anti-discrimination legislation in 1975, reforms have supported this progress.

Our Industry’s Workforce Today
While the proportion of women employed in the transport sector has increased significantly over the past 100 years, much remains to be done to achieve parity of employment between women and men and break down barriers to progression.
Today women make up 47 per cent of the UK workforce and 44 per cent of London’s workforce. Yet women remain underrepresented in our industry, where they make up only 18 per cent of transport workers. In London, only one of the train operating companies is led by a woman, while none of the main bus operating companies are led by a woman.

At TfL, women represent 22.8 per cent of the total workforce and 22.5 per cent of senior managers. While this is slightly above the national average for the transport industry, our sector is still behind other related industries, such as utilities (25 per cent), manufacturing (24 per cent) and information and communications (21 per cent).

While there has and continues to be great activity underway across the industry, which has been fundamental to the good progress made with diversifying our workforce, we are still some way off where we need to be and continue to fall considerably behind other similar industries, particularly those who are customer service based.  To add to this, we are now entering a period where the speed and complexity of growth and development in London and across the UK, places an unprecedented level of demand on our workforce to be more efficient, innovative, agile and resilient than ever.
Equal representation of women across our industry is not an end in itself, it makes business sense too. Countless studies have shown that having a diverse workforce delivers a whole range of economic benefits for businesses. Companies across all sectors with the most women on their boards of directors consistently outperform those with no female representation, both in terms of return on equity and operating results. These companies also fare better in times of economic uncertainty by having a more balanced and long-term view of risk management and a better and more innovative approach to problem solving.

Women are now present across our industry in a huge variety of roles. They are helping us deliver some of the biggest engineering projects in Europe. They are also on the front line, helping us deliver reliable services every day for our customers, and in a range of other supporting roles. Women are also present in greater numbers in senior roles across the sector.

An industry fit for the future
100 YOWIT is an opportunity to refocus attention on the core element of our industry, our people, and develop the infrastructure required to ensure that the activity underlying this campaign is business as usual, and embedded in everything we do. We will use this opportunity to set out our vision for:
 “an industry in which men and women are equally respected and valued as individuals in all of our multiple identities, sharing equality of opportunity, rights and responsibilities in all aspects of our lives.”
And there will be benefits for all: building a diverse and strong workforce for the future which reflects the diverse communities it serves, will mean the right mix of skills so we can deliver a world-class transport system for both the Capital and the UK now and into the future.