Reports 09 Oct 2012

WIR – Women In Rail Good Practices and Implementation Guide

The railway sector faces important challenges. Changes in the economy and society, like the mobility behaviour of people and requirements from business clients on the one hand and the pressure of competition due to liberalisation and globalisation in combination with restricted public budgets and funding on the other hand requires new solutions and products and efficient organisations. Demographic change leads to a decline of the working-age population and therefore to new framework conditions on the labour market. Railway companies are particularly affected as the average age of their staff is rather high (a survey in 2010 where data from 19 European countries could be gathered revealed that 54 % of employees are older than 45 years and 34 % past the age of 50 years). Thus, companies are confronted with skill shortage and have to present themselves as a good employer to persist in the fight for talents.

Against this background the potential of women has been recognised. They record higher educational attainment than men in almost all European countries (60 % of new university graduates in the EU are women, in 2009 35.7 % of women and 28.9 % men aged 30-34 years had successfully completed tertiary- level education) and many studies show the advantages of mixed teams with view to business success. Furthermore a more gender-balanced staff reflects the structure among clients and including different perspectives boosts innovation and has positive impacts on the social climate. Last but not least, the discrimination of women can have negative legal consequences.

Finally, a better gender balance and mixed teams also in male dominated professions and occupations contribute to a general improvement of working conditions for all, men and women, an improved work atmosphere and motivation with an overall effect of better well-being at work for the employees and thus a positive impact on productivity for the company. Contrary to that, the railway sector is one of the most traditional ones where a male-dominated work culture persists. The typical rail jobs require physical strengths – at least in the general perception although technical progress has eliminated the physical character of most of the occupations – and the technical image of the sector has led to a gender unbalanced staff. The need for spatial mobility, irregular working hours and shift work which seem to be incompatible with family life also hamper the employment of women.

Nevertheless, many railway companies have already implemented measures to attract women to the sector as visionary managers are aware that they cannot do without the potential of women and that the problems with view to the demographic trends cannot be solved without employing more women in the railway sector. For a sustainable change an overall strategy with view to gender equality in the companies is required and should include the following elements:

  • Commitment of the management: The commitment of the management board is a prerequisite to implement a comprehensive set of measures and has to be actively communicated to underline the importance of the issue. If gender equality becomes an integral part of the corporate strategy this commitment is “institutionalised” and the top executives have to take over the responsibility for gender equality.
  • Status quo as basis: The analysis of the status quo (share of women in all jobs, hierarchies, in part-time, trainee programmes etc.) builds a basis for the designing and planning of the concrete measures as it reveals the future activity fields and the targets to be achieved.
  • Setting of (quantitative) targets: To assess the success of the implemented measures the setting and monitoring of (quantitative) targets in different fields (e.g. for recruitment, training, career advancement, etc.) are necessary.

This on the one hand guarantees that concrete measures are implemented that go beyond lip services and on the other that the efforts of different departments can be assessed with view to concrete results. Moreover, the monitoring results can give important information with view to required adaptations of the instruments. Also trade unions in the railway sector address gender issues within the social dialogue and suggest the introduction of gender issues in collective bargaining or negotiate specific collective bargain agreements with the companies on e. g. women employment in the different rail professions or worklife-balance issues. A successful policy in the railway companies in order to attract and retain women has to be based on social dialogue. A commitment of the top management is essential but successful implementation requires support and commitment at all management levels and of all employees.

As many companies face the above mentioned challenges now and tackle the problems proactively, instruments have not necessarily to be invented, but the companies can rely on experiences made by others. This guide presents such already successfully implemented measures and instruments. 

This Good Practices and Implementation Guide is published by the European Social Partners in the railway sector, the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the European Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF). It is one outcome of the joint CER / ETF / EIM project “Follow-up of the CER / ETF Joint Recommendations ‘Better Representation and Integration of Women in the Railway Sector’ Implementation – Evaluation – Review”, in short “Women In Railway – WIR”. The case studies described in here have been identified by the European social partners in the course of the project. The information provided is based on document analysis, interviews with railway companies and trade unions representatives and presentations in the thematic seminars, organised by the social partners. 

The case studies (see table below) have been structured according to specific fields of activity of gender equality: recruiting, reconciliation of work and private life, career and equal pay, overall equality policy. The examples have been chosen with the aim to illustrate a variety of possibilities. Although companies often also implement more measures than described in here, only specific aspects are discussed with view to the field of activity the examples are assigned to. As the different aspects of gender equality interrelate also interrelations of measures between the chapters occur. 

This Good Practices and Implementation Guide shall inform on what companies in the railway and in related sectors already do to better integrate women in the railway sector. It shall inspire both railway companies and trade unions to exchange their experiences and the social dialogue on the development of the instruments and measures to promote gender equality at the workplace in the future – in order to achieve a work environment, where everybody, women and men, can develop their full potential under the same conditions.