CMAC Group has always championed women within the sector, and has conducted a selection of interviews to bring awareness to this important topic. We begin with Charlene Wallace, customer and freight director for Network Rail

Charlene Wallace

How long have you worked in the transport sector?

I have worked for over 30 years in transport and have worked within rail, airline, bus, light rail and ferries!

What attracted you to choose to work in the transport sector?

I’ve always loved transport, my dad worked in the rail industry, and I was fortunate to be able to travel a lot. While returning from holiday I saw a recruitment advert for cabin crew, and it really appealed to me, so my career began then! I have since travelled worldwide, performing front line customer facing jobs and progressing to senior executive level roles.

What is your greatest professional achievement or career highlight?

I was nominated as a ‘Railway Hero’ during the Covid pandemic for services to the rail industry. I was one of a small number of people recognised within the transport sector and this was part of a yearlong exhibition showcased at the National Railway Museum.

Do you think having more women in senior leadership roles helps to make transport systems safer and more inclusive?

If we are going to improve safety and inclusivity within transport, we should make sure that people from all demographics have access to education mechanisms that best equip them to make the right decisions across any situations they encounter.

Do you feel that women are equally represented within the transport sector?

I believe we are trying to bridge the gap and there are certainly more women in our industry now than when I first started. However, we still need to attract more talented women to our industry. Awareness and action will lead the change.

Have you ever faced any challenges as a female working in this industry?

Yes, I have encountered many frustrating behaviours and situations. Sometimes being a woman in a senior position has come as a surprise to some people and often I’ve been overlooked in conversations where people thought I may not understand the details of the discussions due to being female.

What should the industry be doing now and in the future to attract and retain more diverse talent?

Diversity will make us stronger as an industry, we need to support and recruit the best talent we can by making diversity a priority from the top down and it has to be an inherent part of our culture. We need to make sure our industry is inclusive and accessible to all.

Why should women be interested in working in the transport industry? What does it have to offer?

The transport industry offers such a wide variety of opportunities for women. It would be great if we could attract more women who can contribute their views, skills, and different perspectives to help us build on all the good work already achieved and help create a more equal industry.

What advice would you give to other women who would like to work in the transport sector and those who aspire to be a senior leader in this industry?

You can do it! Multiple perspectives often bring better solutions. There are so many employers who will support and encourage your career journey and will adapt their current ways of working to make it happen. Many companies now understand that engaging and retaining more women in the workplace will have a really positive impact on the wider industry.

What do you like most about working in the transport industry?

No two days are ever the same, I love the challenges that come with the transport sector and the opportunity it gives me to make a difference for our customers and front-line teams.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day allows us to recognise the positive contributions and achievements of women in our industry. It also reinforces how awareness has been raised not only in our sector but internationally.

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This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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