The Women in Transport Diversity & Inclusion Bus Group can look back on five years of progress


BY Sonya Byers

March is a significant month for Women in Transport, especially with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. This year marks a special milestone as the Women in Transport Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Bus Group celebrates its fifth anniversary.

I am proud to have co-founded the D&I Bus Group with Chloe Leach O’Connell in 2019 and of everything we have achieved collectively. The group has evolved from eight individuals with a passion and vision to drive change to over 30 representatives from 18 different organisations, all united by a common goal: to promote and accelerate diversity and inclusion in the bus industry.

Women make up over 50% of the UK population and, on average, women make more bus trips than men. Yet women account for just 26% of the transport workforce and 11% of bus drivers nationally

Women make up over 50% of the UK population and, on average, women make more bus trips than men. Yet women account for just 26% of the transport workforce and 11% of bus drivers nationally.

Bus can offer a rewarding, life long career with a diverse range of opportunities. It’s a mode of travel that is sustainable and a sector that strives to be accessible and support local communities. Over the past five years, I’ve been fortunate to meet many people across bus who are passionate about creating a workforce that reflects the passengers it serves and making the industry more inclusive and accessible to all.

The Inclusive Employment Journey

One of the group’s major accomplishments in 2022 was the creation of ‘The Inclusive Employment Journey’. This initiative, led by Chloe Leach O’Connell and Caroline Ward, provides a comprehensive resource for the entire bus and coach industry. The journey encompasses every aspect of a colleague’s employment, from community engagement and recruitment to their working life and support post-retirement. The resource, available at, offers best practice case studies, all emphasising diversity and inclusion.

Women’s Safety on Bus

The group aims to provide a consistent approach to women’s safety on buses, collaborating with key partners such as Bus Users UK, Department of Transport (DfT), and the Bus Centre of Excellence (BCoE).

Our joint campaign with Ticketer and Bus Users UK, Women Behind the Wheel: Driving Diversity in Transport, has been shortlisted by the Transport Ticketing Awards 2024 for Best Equity & Inclusion Initiative demonstrating just what we can do when we come together across industry.

Our campaign was focused on fostering inclusivity, dismantling biases, acting as a recruitment driver, and creating an environment that supports the participation and advancement of women in the sector, as well as addressing passenger journeys for women.

We shared a series of video campaigns on social media to gain maximum reach and engagement. The videos featured women in different organisations and roles across bus.

Through our campaign, we amplified their stories to inspire others and overcome issues faced by passengers when women are not represented at all levels within the industry.

We discussed the gender disparity within the industry, the diversity of cultures and races of women within the workforce, and how for women passengers to feel confident to use public transport, we need more women within the workforce to help shape a transport system for them.

The initiative has demonstrated success quantitatively and qualitatively, contributing to significant benefits for passengers and women within the industry. The series of videos achieved a total of 3,154 views, 639 minutes watched, and average engagement rate of 6.37%, showcasing widespread interest and engagement across social media platforms. This platform strategy ensured a broad reach, effectively disseminating the initiative’s message.

Since the campaign, the DfT reached out to work with us in formulating 2024 inclusion and equity plans. We are collaborating with the DfT to support the 13 recommendations from the Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions, Anne Shaw OBE and Laura Shoaf. These recommendations were shaped through their engagement with nearly 200 respondents through a series of roundtables, primary research conducted by Transport Focus, and the Transport Champions’ own expertise.

Transition in leadership

As the D&I Bus Group enters its fifth year, a new chapter begins with Dal Kalirai taking over as co-chair. With over 32 years of experience in the bus industry and a significant role in Women in Transport, Dal brings a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of the industry.

Mission and objectives

The mission of the D&I Bus Group is clear: to come together and make the bus industry a more diverse and inclusive space. Each year, the group sets specific objectives and actionable plans. The current focus areas include inclusive bus cab design, thought leadership, recruitment and retention, and women’s safety on buses.

Inclusive Bus Cab Design Summit

The Inclusive Cab Summit on March 5, hosted by First Bus in Leicester, was a significant event. The summit aimed to establish the gold standard for bus driver cab design.

The event brought together bus operators, leading manufacturers, and human factors ergonomic designers to discuss and showcase the future of inclusive cab design.

The keynote address by Mike Adams, founder and CEO of Purple, highlighted the importance of inclusive design in creating a safe and comfortable working environment. The initiative comes in response to a survey by the RMT union, estimating that inadequate cabin design could be costing the bus industry over £10m annually in England alone.

Thought leadership and influence

The D&I Bus Group is committed to being a leading voice in the bus industry’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Through webinars, partnerships with key organisations, and participation in events like the UK Bus Awards, the group aims to showcase its work and encourage cross-sector collaboration.

Recruitment and retention

In 2024, the group continues its efforts to change the perception of working in the bus industry and emphasise the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Initiatives will highlight various positions and careers within the industry including this special edition of Passenger Transport featuring different women from across bus.

More broadly, Women in Transport continues to support its members through events, networking, an annual mentoring programme and a leadership development programme which is helping women progress to senior leadership positions in transport.

Equity Index

In 2023, Women in Transport launched the Equity Index Project, championing diversity and equity. This index provides baseline data, unveils gender diversity, and rewards best practices, inviting participation for a more inclusive industry. We hope that a more representative and inclusive workforce will also lead better passenger experience.

All member organisations of the D&I Bus Group have committed to completing the Women in Transport Equity Index Survey for 2024. This unique index provides crucial baseline data, uncovering the true gender diversity in transport-related positions. It recognises and rewards best practices, allowing organisations to benchmark themselves against others and the overall Transport index.

Inclusive Employment Journey

The group plans to enhance the Inclusive Employment Journey by exploring new ways to develop and manage it. Members will contribute new case studies to ensure the continued growth of this valuable resource.

This platform allows best practices for improving culture, retaining bus drivers and other initiatives to be shared nationwide. As the Women in Transport Diversity & Inclusion Bus Group commemorates its fifth anniversary, it stands as a beacon of progress in the bus industry. From the inception of The Inclusive Employment Journey to the upcoming Inclusive Cab Summit, the group continues to drive forward diversity and inclusion. The commitment to thought leadership, recruitment and retention initiatives, the Equity Index, women’s safety, and the Inclusive Employment Journey showcases the collective efforts to make the bus industry a more diverse and inclusive space. The group’s work serves as an inspiration and a catalyst for positive change across the entire transport sector.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sonya Byers is the CEO of Women in Transport, a non-profit membership network that supports the professional development of women working in transport. Sonya has been a member of the network for 17 years and was a volunteer board member for 11 years before being appointed to her current role. She co-founded the Advance mentoring programme and the D&I Bus Group. If you would like to get involved or find out more about the Women in Transport D&I Bus Group, visit:

This story appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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