106 Communications

6th Sense

The story of toilets and driving diversity…

May 2016 | Culture, Diversity

Toilets.  We take them for granted.

You go to work and there’s a toilet there for you.  Whether you’re male or female.

Except when you work on the train tracks for Network Rail.

You could be fixing and maintaining the track miles away from a station and any accessible toilet.

For men, not a problem.  The trees and bushes are our saviour.

But what about women?  How do you solve this problem?

Dig a hole?  Nooooooo.  Have a train parked there?  Expensive and logistically difficult.  Port-a-loo?  Then you have to have all port-a-loo staff trained to go track-side, and delivering port-a-loos for a few hours work as well as for a few week.  Van with a toilet?  Yes, possibly, but would you want to?

It seems that no track operating company has solved this problem, anywhere in the world.

And it is one barrier to Network Rail achieving a target of 30% women in their workforce by 2020.

Of course, it’s not the only one.

Talent pool – engineering is a profession dominated by white men (of a certain age too).  Changing the ratio takes time and education.

Low turnover – it’s difficult to change the make-up of a workforce when few people leave.

Disclosure – if people don’t disclose race or disability, then hard to know the make-up of the workforce and whether any progress is being made.

Barriers aside, what I heard from Network Rail was brilliant.  And it was this.

“An inclusive environment is a safer environment”

This is the vision driving greater focus on diversity and inclusion, and a target of achieving 30% female representation.  Currently it is just 14% overall (and just 3% in operational roles).

The Chief Exec of Network Rail had seen a dramatic fall in H&S breaches by implementing a similar strategy in Oil & Gas previously.  Now it’s the turn of Network Rail.

What we see here is a direct correlation between business performance (and H&S is the number one priority for Network Rail) and diversity & inclusion.

Time for more organisations to do the same.

Sign up for your weekly shot of Comms, Engagement and Employer Branding