Representation and integration of women in the railway sector: our study on women in rail

13 Jun 2005

In June 2005, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Managers (CER) released a study, an ISFORT study for and with the ETF and the CER, on ‘Representation and better integration of women in the different professions of the railway sector’.  The study is the outcome of a one-year project coordinated by the European social partners within European sectoral social dialogue, which benefited by the financial support of the European Commission.  The aims were to provide an overview of the sector from the perspective of women employees and to facilitate exchange of good practice in the area of equal opportunities and integration of women in the railway sector.  Trade unions and employers from 11 EU Member States participated in the project and in the survey.  Amongst the project activities, there were six country meetings involving trade union and company representatives from rail transport.

Here are, in brief, the findings of the project research study:

  • Women are seriously under-represented in the workforce of the European railway businesses and employment trends show a further drop in their number due to the accelerated pace of restructuring.  Women account for only 18.8% of the total number of employees in the 11 railway companies surveyed.
  • The rail sector is deeply marked by horizontal and vertical segregation. Thus, female workers prevail in clerical jobs while technical occupations are overwhelmingly male-dominated.  While managerial posts are equally shared between men and women, only 1% of the executive posts are taken up by women.
  • The pay gap (in average wage) in the sector varies from country to country oscillating between 10% and 30 %!
  • With regards to work-life balance, women railway workers share a strong view that maternity leave has a negative impact on career progress and pay.

Cultural stereotypes feeding into segregation and discrimination, pay inequity affecting job satisfaction, and difficulties in reconciling work and family life are amongst the most critical aspects social partners need to address in order to encourage more women to join the railway professions and retain their jobs within the sector.

With the view to the above mentioned, the study makes recommendations in three areas: communication / language to overcome the male-oriented stereotype, training/updating to allow workers equal conditions and career prospects as well as improve the culture of equal opportunities, better representation of women’s needs and interests at the level of collective bargaining.  With regards to the latter, monitoring instruments should be in place to make sure that agreements are fully implemented.

Follow-up of the project: The social partners will discuss further common action to promote equality at sectoral and company level.  They are considering the possibility to organise during the second half of 2006 a joint conference as part of the promotion and dissemination of project outcome.  In parallel, the ETF will encourage other transport sections to follow the initiative of the social partners in the railway sector by presenting this project in social dialogue committee meetings of other transport sectors.