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Meet the TransPennine Express stars helping to #BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day

TransPennine Express (TPE) is shining a light on the women who are breaking the bias to forge a career in a traditionally male dominated industry.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the train operator is highlighting the opportunities available to women within the industry by showcasing the success of four fantastic females.

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director at TPE said:

“We have worked hard to break the stereotypes of traditional roles within the rail industry, and we continue to make huge progress in developing a more diverse workforce.

“I’m proud to say that we have more woman in senior roles than ever before, and we are continually developing new schemes to encourage woman to consider a career in rail.”

Through its specialist apprenticeship and graduate schemes, last autumn TPE welcomed 14 apprentices and three graduates, a third of which were women. This is a figure mirrored within TPE’s overall recruitment in the past 12 months, with women making up 35 per cent of new employees.

Shannon Pilkington, a control room apprentice based in Manchester is one of those using the scheme to break into the rail industry.

Shannon said:

“The apprenticeship is a two-year scheme which includes completing a Level Three in Business Administration and the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE). My role involves spending time in the control room, developing my skills in the different roles within the department by shadowing colleagues and completing different tasks.

“So far, the experience has been amazing, and it has really helped with my confidence. Everyone at TPE is very supportive and all the apprentices are going through the same experiences together.”

Alicja Zdobylak is a management graduate based within the operations department. She joined TPE in September 2021 as a part of the graduate scheme which gives university students an introduction to the rail industry.

Alicja said:

“Since starting at TPE I have worked on the frontline and within an office environment. The exposure I am getting allows me to see the business – and wider industry – as a whole, rather than focusing on just one department.

This allows me to make smarter business decisions, which will not only help me but, in the long run, will help the business grow and increase customer satisfaction.”

As well as encouraging new women into the business, TPE also supports existing colleagues to develop their skills, retrain where necessary, and take steps to achieve their career goals. TPE offers inclusive career development with its Step Up and Step Forward programme that supports increased female representation in management grade roles.

Lisa Yemm, a resourcing administrator, joined TPE in 2008. Lisa started her rail career as a cleaner for Carlisle Support Services at Manchester Airport Station. Lisa then moved on to work as a cleaner at The Hub, Huddersfield, TPE’s training centre, where she was offered a secondment to work as an administrator for the Learning and Development team. Lisa’s career in the railway then further developed when TPE’s human resources director nominated her to do the Step Up and Step Forward Programme.

Lisa said:

“I work with an amazing team that supports, encourages and gives me the confidence to believe in myself. They always push me to do my best! The highlight of my career would be the human resources director believing in me and giving me the opportunity to do the secondment within Learning and Development.”

But it’s not just those looking for their first role in the industry who benefit from TPE’s commitment to breaking the bias. The rail operator is also championing career development for those already in the business.

Emma Teale, recently promoted to Head of Customer Insights and Improvement, said:

“My recent promotion is the absolute highlight of my career so far. Previously, as Customer Experience Manager, I was very lucky to be able to learn a lot that put me in a great position to further my career. I had a great mentor – and cheerleader – with in the business and this helped me massively.

“I’m really excited for the next stage in my career and making a success of the role. I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by an excellent team.”