Caroline Ward is a consultant specialising in designing and delivering people development workshops within the passenger transport sector. Chloe Leach O’Connell runs her own consultancy business that is focused on implementing change, as well as delivery of strategic goals and targets. Both are working on Women in Transport’s Inclusive Employment Journey Project.
“The Inclusive Employment Journey was born from an aspiration we both had to raise the profile of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in all areas of decision making and operation within the bus and coach industry.”
Educational background and career to date
I’m a consultant primarily, but not exclusively, within the passenger transport sector, designing and delivering people development workshops on fatigue awareness and equality, diversity and inclusion.
For the first 25 years of my career, I worked in the London Bus market in a number of operational and strategic roles. These included general manager for three bus garages and people and change manager, supporting over 5000 staff.
Having joined the industry prior to the privatisation of the London Bus network I have witnessed great changes – not least that my 18-year-old self in the 1980s could ever have believed that I, being female, would one day be in charge of over 1000 staff with budget responsibility of £25m+.
My interest in people, how to maximise success as leaders and how to work well together (or not) has been a theme for me throughout my career, and a passion that drives my consultancy work today.
I am a Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport and a qualified coach. I am a thrilled to be a mentor on Women in Transport’s Advance Mentoring programme.
I have been part of the bus industry for over 15 years, I’m an engagement professional specialising in internal and external communication programmes, I run a marketing and communications consultancy and we work for a range of different organisations and business within the industry.
I was a member of the regional leadership team at Arriva North East and Yorkshire for many years, and I loved every minute of it. This is where my passion for people, and employee engagement began. I want to see our industry flourish and it’s so important that we attract new skills and talent.
I’m on a mission to see our management and senior teams truly reflect our customer base, and society. I’m co-chair and a founder member of the D&I (diversity and inclusion) Bus Group, part of Women in Transport.
About Women in Transport
Women in Transport is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers women to maximise their potential. It currently has over 600 members in the UK, and not just women, everyone is welcome, they come from across the whole transport sector, and during the pandemic WiT opened additional regional hubs in Scotland and the North East of England.
Membership provides exclusive access to a varied events programme (all currently online) including unique experiences, professional development, networking and annual membership.
Making connections that take you places
We met after Chloe had written a piece in one of the transport magazines about the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the bus industry and how she wanted to work with others who felt the same. Together we wanted to encourage debate and action, helping others to realise that doing nothing was not sustainable if we wanted to attract and retain talented people to drive the industry into the future, and help public transport play its part in meeting the challenges of climate change and a greener future.
Women in Transport members had also seen the article and put Chloe in touch with Sonya Byers (Women in Transport’s CEO) it became very apparent that there was a natural synergy in our mission to accelerate inclusion in the bus industry and it made perfect sense for any new network to sit within Women in Transport, a fabulous organisation with heaps of experience, talent and research that we could tap into.
We set up an initial meeting with like-minded people from the industry, and then Women in Transport’s D&I (diversity and inclusion) Bus Group, supported by Women in Transport (WiT), was formed. We joined WiT as members then.
We have both have wished so many times since that we’d had access to a WiT type network in our earlier careers., especially in the first 10 years when a mentor and peer support would have saved so much anxiety and soul searching and knowledge of how to maximise performance in a middle-aged male-dominated industry (traditionally it is a 90/10 gender split at driver level).
Sharing the art of the possible
The Inclusive Employment Journey was born from an aspiration we both had to raise the profile of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in all areas of decision making and operation within the bus and coach industry.
As a manager or leader where could someone go to find ideas or get help to improve D&I in their team or organisation? A way of sharing the art of the possible – finding out what we don’t know or even realise it would be helpful to know! Notwithstanding the competitive nature of the market, we wanted to support collaboration for the greater good, changes that could benefit the whole sector.
About the programme
The IEJ has been designed to be accessible to any size business, be it new, family-run, a local or national coach or bus business. It will be web-based and interactive. The website is in final development however the attached screen shots give an indication of the layout and features. The premise is that there are three key areas or parts to our employment journey. Briefly these are:
- Welcome Aboard (before anyone joins us, how they see us) – how the business can play its part in the local community, to be an employer of choice and for employees to reflect the customer base;
- Once you’re part of it (from application stage onwards) – that D&I is a priority for customer service as well as employees, it’s about recognition and reward, mentoring, personal development opportunities and feeling welcomed and valued;
- The next stop (preparing and supporting our colleagues as they leave us) – retaining knowledge in the industry, social networks, ambassadors for the sector, encouraging the next generation to join the sector.
When users click on the area of the website, they are interested in a number of subheadings (represented as bus stops) that take them to case studies, videos, testimonials, development resources, or people to contact who can assist in that area.
So, you could find examples of best practice to achieve inclusive recruitment practices, or how to raise awareness about pronoun use, or lifelong learning resources for those employees who have English as a second or third language, how to monitor the diversity within your business or who to contact for support in reaching out to carers of vulnerable transport users to enhance your customer service provision.
The power of collective wisdom
We have been gathering this material from the members of the D&I Bus group (29 members at present from across the UK), as well as our wider contacts and from WiT. The website is organic so will grow over time populated by content offered by any organisation who has access to it.
We have been supported in our work by the CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport), our trade body, who will host the website. The content will be moderated so we will always be showcasing the very best practice, and the really powerful thing about the IEJ is that it will belong to the industry.
Through our work promoting the project so far, we have achieved matched funding from CPT (as well as their willingness to host the website) and other industry stakeholders, currently including Go North West (part of the Go Ahead group), Women in Transport, the Society of Engineers, Blackpool Transport and Buzz Marketing.
We hope to increase this to make sure the website can support any upgrades or add-ins necessary for the next few years. Success will initially be the launch of the website and then additional content that organisations are proud to share. Firstly, because it has made a difference in their organisation, but also because they value the success this collaboration will bring to the whole sector in raising our profile as a key part of the financial success of the country.
Getting into careers in transport
If you are interested in transport careers, check out transport company websites (not just your local one) which are now much more switched on to providing information that future employees will want to know about.
There is a really wide range of roles people may not naturally think about as careers in transport – engineering roles overseeing the electric and hydrogen bus development programmes, data mining and app designers, trainers, drivers, marketing and commercial roles, social media content advisors, route performance managers — we could go on for ages!
Find out if the company is attending job fairs or offering graduate scheme opportunities. Many transport companies offer apprenticeships in a wide range of roles, and we would encourage anyone at any age to join, first jobs or second or third careers.
Some operators such as Blackpool Transport have engagement programmes where they visit local colleges and that is a great way to meet people at the sharp end of the business who can share what they love about their job and hopefully inspire others to join.
We have always said we wouldn’t change anything about our careers – that doesn’t mean it has always been easy or enjoyable on occasions, it hasn’t at times, but this industry has provided so many opportunities to grow, to try new things, and to genuinely make a difference to the travelling public on a daily basis. In how many jobs can you say that?
It has also been a privilege to work with some of the funniest, kindest and highly motivated people possible. And if that doesn’t sell it how about working in a business where no two days are the same, no chance to be bored!
You can find out all the great stuff that Women in Transport are supporting and driving forward as well as the development and networking opportunities on offer to members at www.womenintransport.com
Coming up next
I feel the bus industry is at such an exciting crossroads, there is huge investment being made in greener, cleaner technology and finally people are truly getting behind ‘bus’. There’s never been a more important time to attract the skills and talent we need, and to be working on a project like the IEJ, which will help make sure we have a strong platform from which to build out future plans, is just fantastic!
I am super happy to be in the final stages of realising the IEJ — the pandemic obviously delayed us for a long while but we are so close now I cannot wait. I’m excited at the opportunity to shout out about our great UK bus and coach industry to a wider audience courtesy of Womanthology so thank you for that.
Whilst there are still improvements we can and should be making, hence the inclusive employment journey, there are many excellent teams around the country working so hard to keep people moving safely, on time and in an energy-efficient way.
Next for me is a project to help build inclusive communication in businesses to support diversity and inclusion.