Britain’s first ever female rail boss today urged other women trying to make their careers in male-dominated industries to “be yourself and don’t try to be a man”.
Dyan Crowther, who runs the Channel Tunnel link company HS1, joined the then nationalised railways as a graduate trainee in the Eighties. There were so few women employed by British Rail that the first signal box she worked in did not even have a ladies lavatory. She said: “I needed a guard on the door to make sure I could go about my business.”
In an interview with the BBC she said she initially tried to copy the men that dominated her workplace, but quickly realised it was the wrong strategy.
She said: “When you are in a minority there is a tendency to emulate what your peer group are doing, but I soon realised that wasn’t going to work, so I stayed being Dyan and not trying to be something that most of my peer group, mainly male, were going to be.”
Her advice to young women in industry includes: “If you have something to say, don’t leave a meeting, don’t leave a room, without having said it. When I first joined, because I was a little bit intimidated, because I was different, that voice got lost, so re-finding that voice early on in my career has been quite a significant contribution to my success.”
The mother-of-three joined HS1 as its chief executive in January last year, after working at Govia Thameslink as chief operating officer. She previously worked at Network Rail, Arriva Trains Northern, and Railtrack.
Despite some advances in the number of female executives at the top of the industry, the number of women in the railway sector remains low.
Network Rail has set a target of increasing the level of the female workforce to 20 per cent by 2020. Its outgoing boss, Mark Carne, has also said he wants to increase the number of women in the business by 50 per cent by 2024.