March 08 2021

Chloe Leach-O’Connell is one of the founder members of The Diversity and Inclusion Bus Group, it was launched back in 2018 and it forms part of Women in Transport. The group was set up to help accelerate gender equality, and all aspects of promoting diversity and inclusion within the bus industry. The story behind it, is a simple one, a group of like-minded people came together to really try and make a difference.

So here we are, it’s International Women’s Day, a day that gives us all the opportunity to celebrate and recognise our female colleagues making a difference, no matter how huge or small, in this remarkably resilient industry of ours. This year has been different in every way, and one that we will look back on and wonder how all of us came together and made it all work, how we juggled, how we adapted, how we coped full-stop; so it’s also a great opportunity to congratulate the industry as whole and just say… we should all be truly, truly proud of people’s sacrifices, commitments and complete dedication throughout this pandemic.

For the first time there really is a sense of change on the horizon, I believe we are well on our way to seeing a more diverse workforce that one day will truly reflect our customer base. One thing this pandemic has shown us is the shocking disparities in our society and we need to make sure we are leading the way in supporting social inclusion at every step. And over the last 12 months there has been a massive shift change with more and more people taking a keen interest in the Diversity and Inclusion agenda which is such a breath of fresh air for our industry.

Women make up the majority of our passengers, so it’s so exciting to see more and more work being done to encourage women to join the industry. And as more women join our ranks, our teams are becoming stronger, as we begin to understand what we really need from our bus services. Whether it’s more accessible areas for buggies, shopping bags, or improved networks supporting trip chaining, we can make sure we’re able to make the right decisions on behalf of our customers. Our commercial teams must have balance in order to create an attractive product for our communities - this isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense.

Role models are so important if we want to attract more women, and thankfully all around us we are seeing big moves when it comes to women taking up senior positions across a range of organisations. We’ve seen Managing Director Jane Cole from Blackpool Transport be appointed President of the CPT, and two of the UK Bus groups, First and Stagecoach now being led by Janette Bell and Carla Stockton-Jones respectively. Having these role models is absolutely key to our progress, and not forgetting the importance of having a fresh, more diverse take on our world from the top.

So on this International Women’s Day I urge people to take a moment to reflect on the remarkable women we already have amongst us, the importance of attracting the women we need to help build our futures, and to begin to understand the cultures we need to put in place in order to support them.  

Happy International Women’s Day.