The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has established a three-year initiative to improve gender diversity in the rail sector for the period from August 2023 to June 2026.

The ARA recorded a 24% female presence in the rail industry in its 2022 gender diversity report survey.

Although this percentage has increased from 2016’s figure (17%), the results continued to show a lack of improvement in terms of gender equality throughout the industry.

ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie emphasised that while the sector has witnessed significant increases in gender diversity, there remains considerable work to be done to strengthen women’s participation in the growing field: “The ARA’s Women in Rail Strategy aims to support the continued increase in female representation in the industry. With a strong $154bn pipeline of investment over the next 15 years, this is more important than ever to ensure a sustainable future for rail.”

“There are so many opportunities for women to build rich and rewarding careers in rail during this once-in-a-lifetime transformation of the industry.

“We want to attract the best and brightest talent by fostering an inclusive work environment and transform the industry to one where a Women in Rail Strategy is no longer needed because inclusivity is ingrained.”

The strategy aims to include an increased focus on industry and organisational development, featuring an annual Women in Rail mentoring programme and a Women in Rail sponsorship programme.

The strategy further emphasised the need to acknowledge that women and people of colour continue to experience systematic disadvantages and impediments when joining, rising, or achieving senior management positions in the business.

The ARA will commit to including concerns about racism, the LGBTQ+ community and non-binary and trans women in the gender equity actions specified in this strategy.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women are underrepresented at leadership and management levels in Australian workplaces.

ARA has made great progress with gender parity across their leadership board with Caroline Wilkie firmly representing female leadership in the rail sector with plans to define a “new future agenda on behalf of ARA members”.

Furthermore, 41% of the general board of directors at ARA features female placement.

Rebecca Want, the ARA’s women in rail committee chair and ARA board director, said the ARA will continue to work closely with industry and government across the country to close the gender gap.

Want said: “It is well known that diversity in the workplace drives improved performance, innovation and better solutions. Our Women in Rail vision is for an inclusive and diverse industry without barriers and one that is recognised as an employer of choice for women.

“We are committed to fostering equality of opportunity for women in the rail sector by empowering women at every level of industry.”