Q&A with Network Rail’s Simon Kendler: Diversity and inclusion in rail
Posted: 26 May 2023 | Simon Kendler | No comments yet
Simon Kendler, National Vice-Chair for Young Rail Professionals and Regional Freight Manager for Network Rail, discusses the importance of developing diversity in the rail industry and describes how the Railtex event highlighted inclusion.
Can you start by giving us your thoughts on the current levels of diversity in rail?
Many in the industry now recognise that a railway that better reflects the communities and businesses it serves is a more diverse railway.
We know that more diverse organisations produce better outcomes and have better productivity. Therefore, a more diverse railway is a better railway. Building on that, many in the industry now recognise that a railway that better reflects the communities and businesses it serves is a more diverse railway. These are the first steps in what is going to be a long journey and we have a long way to go to change perceptions and engender real changes across the industry.
In what ways can diversity and inclusion in rail be improved upon and developed further?
For me it comes down to two main themes. The first is making real changes and following best practice to ensure that organisations across the industry are aware of the need for diversity and inclusion, which includes making commitments to enact changes. This can start ‘at home’ where organisations can seek advice from their own workforces and employee networks for what differences can be made and build from there. The second is to change perceptions externally that the industry is changing. The rail industry loses out on many potential workers when young people exclude themselves from the industry due to certain perceptions. Changing this would hugely benefit the industry as a whole.
What positives are you seeing in the rail industry in regard to diversity and inclusion?
There are a few things that highlight progress over the last five years in particular. The industry has executed many external promotions of the LGBTQ+ community (such as the Avanti West Coast “Progress” train). The Rail Industry Association and Women in Rail drove the development of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Charter encouraging industry bodies to sign up and commit their organisations to ED&I. And finally, it was encouraging to see Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, personally committing to boosting ED&I as one of his personal objectives for this year.
How can the rail industry get younger talent involved in the workforce?
There are probably three main themes to attract younger talent to the industry:
Many industry bodies could perhaps be aware of the needs and expectations of younger people in terms of their working lives.
1) The industry is poor at self-promotion. The industry should be less coy and take steps to actively promote the industry and the multitude of opportunities within it to school age pupils, college/university students and other job seekers who might not have considered a role in rail. Jobs in rail help tackle climate change, involve some incredibly sophisticated technology and can involve major projects involving significant engineering and design skills – these should be attractive prospects for anyone.
2) Getting the foot in the door. It can be a little hard to gain access to the industry from the outside. As an industry, we need to make it a little easier to get the “foot in the door”.
3) Retention. Many industry bodies could perhaps be aware of the needs and expectations of younger people in terms of their working lives. Younger people are attracted by provisions for maternity/paternity leave, in-work benefits, work-life balance and the prospect of stable career progression which rail can offer. Focussing on these aspects will help attract younger talent to the workforce.
Are you seeing the importance of diversity and inclusion in rail at Railtex?
We saw the importance of diversity and inclusion highlighted at Railtex in a couple of ways. Young Rail Professional’s conference programme had a key focus on diversity and inclusion throughout. Our conference programme received really positive feedback and good attendance which was also encouraging. However, the demographics of those attending does highlight the journey the industry needs to continue on in order to get the industry to where it needs to go.
Simon Kendler is the Young Rail Professionals’ (YRP) National Vice-Chair for 2023. Simon also works for Network Rail as a Regional Freight Manager in the freight team.
Avanti West Coast, Network Rail, Railway Industry Association (RIA), Women In Rail, Young Rail Professionals (YRP)