Putting EDI into practice



A strong EDI policy has been at the heart of High Speed 2 from the start.

A key element is Reverse Mentoring. The aim is to create an exchange of perspectives around organisational culture and better awareness of diverse talent for the executive and senior leaders whilst providing a safe environment for the exchange of challenging topics. Matching of senior leaders with junior mentors involves a short application process; 59% of Reverse Mentors are women.

After being launched as a pilot in 2017, the project was expanded in April 2018 to involve the whole senior leadership team and was made into a key performance indicator for this group. During 2020, the Reverse Mentoring programme moved online within a dedicated Microsoft Teams environment.

The Reverse Mentoring programme has proved extremely effective for the retention and progression of diverse staff. Since 2017, 56% of junior mentors have been promoted. Women have been over-represented in promotions at HS2 over the last few years, aided by the Reverse Mentoring programme. And in an employee engagement survey in 2020-21, ‘inclusive’ was the word most used by staff to describe HS2 Ltd’s culture, underlining the progress the company has made.


DB Cargo, the UK’s largest freight operator, has shown its commitment to continuously improving diversity at all levels.

The company continues to review its recruitment methodologies to ensure there is no bias and aims to attract candidates from the broadest groups. In a traditionally male-dominated industry, DBC’s leadership team is steadily working towards a more balanced gender ratio. It recently recruited Deb Hardy as its new Chief Financial Officer, joining from Moran Logistics, a logistics and warehousing company, bringing a wealth of experience to the finance team at DBC UK. Sitting alongside her as a new board member is Marie Hill, previously Head of IT at DB Cargo UK, now promoted to Chief Transformation and Digitalisation Officer. This new role, and two new female board members, brings complete gender equality to the management Board, and is evidence of DBC UK’s ambition and commitment to growth and diversity.


Southeastern’s gender diversity initiatives have been influenced, shaped and driven by inputs from all aspects of the business.

As well as running an all-female train to mark International Women’s Day 2020, Southeastern is the only operator to provide menopause awareness training for more than 100 people across the business, and a leading employer in the rail industry on fertility policy.

In three years Southeastern recorded a 194% increase in female driver applications, demonstrating the effectiveness of the company’s efforts, but also how starkly the industry has been waiting for this moment – for women to feel welcome and wanted in rail. Sister operator Govia Thameslink Railway ran targeted recruitment campaigns, invested in a new careers website and partnered with platforms including Work180 and The Female Lead to help diversify the talent pool.

All female train: this Southeastern service on International Women’s Day 2020 was both crewed and signalled entirely by women.

The industry average for the number of female drivers is only 5%. Following the launch of Southeastern’s initiatives, 36% of the 95 drivers hired in 2020 were women, and at GTR a record 18% of applicants were female.

In Southeastern’s 2019 internal engagement survey, 84% of women said they were ‘proud’ to work for Southeastern – up 10% from 2018.


A signaller is a job which many would view as a traditionally male role on the railway. Indeed, the job title itself was for many years a gendered one, highlighting this point. So when recruiting signallers, Network Rail made diversity and inclusion a priority, ensuring it was designed in to the process.

One specific example of a recruitment initiative aimed at improving diversity was ‘Choose Wessex’. This campaign aimed to change attitudes to make Network Rail an employer of choice for diverse groups. The campaign included posters in stations, electronic billboards, wraps on buses and even radio media, all inviting individuals to find out more by visiting a campaign website.

Despite the campaign launching in early 2020, just before the UK went into lockdown, the website received over 4,000 visits. More than 50 visitors left their personal details and were connected to a ‘buddy’ they could speak to about what life is like working at Network Rail.

The campaign has opened the minds of potential employees to the variety of roles and people needed to make the industry the best it can be. Achieving this requires an engaged and competent workforce who understand the passengers, customers and communities they serve, and who can perform at their best.


‘We are progressive. We are one family. We are inclusive. First time, every time.’

GWR’s bold vision for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity recognises the need for fundamental changes in the way the company engages with its employees, as well as development of a desire to understand, accept and shift the cultural compass.

Supporting underrepresented or marginalised groups takes centre stage with development initiatives such as the Step-Up/ Step-Forward programme for women. This programme was designed to help remove barriers, both internal and external, for woman looking to progress within GWR. It generated such a positive response that it is being replicated to support intersectionality with the REACH-Up/REACH-Forward program, focused on the development and progression of those who are culturally and ethnically diverse.

Creating a sense of belonging within the GWR culture is all about bringing your true self to work with no edits needed – another example of this is the introduction of a gender-neutral uniform policy.

These initiatives and gradual culture shifts are only the beginning, with future challenges being addressed head on. Priorities for the future include gender, ethnicity and disability attraction through inclusive recruitment as well as programmes to help employees better understand the lived experiences of their colleagues.