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Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain – INWED 2023

In this Women in Engineering series CFMS speaks to female pioneers from across the engineering industry to celebrate their achievements, unlock valuable insight into how best to diversify the industry, as well as inspire the next generation of budding engineers.

Introducing Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, AKA the Queen of the Railways! Daisy is a rail expert and serves as the Innovation Manager at East West Rail. With a passion for transport transformation, accessibility, sustainability and inclusion, she strives to make rail travel better. Daisy’s dedication is focused on creating a safer, more accessible, and enjoyable rail experience for everyone.

Beyond her role at East West Rail, Daisy holds an esteemed position within the transportation industry. She proudly serves as the Vice Chair of the Inclusive Mobility Forum at ITS UK, championing inclusive equitable mobility solutions. Additionally, she serves as a Board member for the Community Rail Network, playing a pivotal role in fostering community engagement and enhancing rail services. Daisy’s outstanding contributions have also been recognised by her inclusion in the prestigious Northern Power Women Future List.

Daisy’s expertise, combined with her unwavering commitment to improving rail services, positions her as a true leader in the field. Her dedication to creating a more accessible and sustainable transportation landscape makes her a valuable asset to the rain industry and an advocate for a positive change.

What sparked your interest in engineering? Can you describe the moment you realised this was a field you’d like to pursue?

My journey into rail was actually coincidental – I don’t come from an engineering background, but from a teaching one. I began working within rail at Community Rail Lancashire; which was looking at the human side of rail, rather than the technology or engineering side. From there I became rail lead at Innovate UK KTN, and now innovation manager at East West Rail; both roles with deeper technology and engineering engagement, but still rooted in communities and impact for users.

What is it like to be a woman in engineering? Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts?

Unfortunately, as with most STEM industries, transport is still heavily gender-skewed, with women making up only 20% of the UK transport workforce. There are also ongoing challenges around misogyny in the workplace and the gender pay gap; the latter of which has sadly increased – in 2017, the gender pay gap between men and women was 9.6%, and in 2022 it was 10.4%. We need to do a lot more to recruit, retain, support, and promote women within the sector to ensure we reverse this worrying trend.

It’s vital that we have more women working within transport for a few reasons; firstly, women use the system and should be represented in decision-making for the systems. Secondly, we are faced with an imminent skills gap within the rail industry, where we anticipate a shortage of over 100,000 workers in the next ten years. Thirdly, it makes financial sense – organisations which are more diverse outperform those which are less diverse – in particular, more women at C-suite level is connected to higher profits and a better total return to shareholders overall.

What advice do you have for women interested in engineering?

The best advice I can give is to find like-minded people and role models. Social media can do wonders for this; the transport and rail sectors are very active on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. Building a community of peers (of all genders) will help to give you insight into the sector you’re interested in, but also contributes to your future working support network.

Based on your experience, what advice might you give to your school-age self?

Do your own career research. School career advisors perform an incredibly valuable function, but learning from those within sectors can’t be beaten in terms of accuracy and relevant information. The internet is useful here, but getting practical experience can be the difference between choosing a career or not and you’ll find most companies would be delighted if you reach out (via your school or college) looking for a day of shadowing experience.

What more do you think needs to be done at an earlier age to cultivate girls’ interest in engineering?

Direct experiences in and outside of schools. In rail, we have an amazing movement called Community Rail; made up of paid offers and volunteers across the country, Community Rail partnerships exist to support their local communities in accessing rail. One of the main activities these partnerships often perform is within schools  – engaging with children of all ages in topics from rail safety and history to railway careers information in secondary schools. This kind of direct outreach is invaluable in providing direct information for students and empowering their decision-making.

Have you been involved in any work/programme that looks to address the need for encouraging girls into engineering?

I have led work engaging young women in all of my roles. At Community Rail Lancashire, I led a programme called Women Who Wander, which gave young women and girls experiences using rail and engaging with rail staff, with the ultimate aim of building their knowledge of career options. At Innovate UK KTN, I led the accessible and inclusive transport portfolio, which featured Women In Transport summits, primarily focussing on dialogue and best practice sharing between transport professionals across modes.

Do you think the sector is doing enough to address gender imbalance within the industry?

Rail and all transport sectors, as well as STEM industries generally, all need to do more to address our gender imbalance. In 2019, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take 99.5 years to close the gender pay gap between men and women. Much more urgent action is needed to speed up this process; from inclusive hiring practices and flexible working, a frank cultural examination within STEM organisations, programmes in schools to support women entering the sector, inclusive working policies and much more.

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