Skip to main content

Manchester schoolgirls take a special journey with STEM leaders

Female pupils from Manchester United Foundation partner schools took a train journey with a difference recently, as part of a STEM initiative with women who hold some of the rail industry’s top management positions.

| by Katie Newton

The career-focused event was hosted by Community Rail Lancashire in collaboration with the Foundation’s ‘Next Move’ employability and skills programme, allowing the schoolgirls the opportunity to explore careers in rail and highlighting the disproportionate numbers of men (84%) and women working within the sector.

As they travelled from Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street, the pupils from Stretford High School, Loreto High School in Chorlton and Dean Trust Ardwick (some of whom had never travelled by train before) questioned the female role models who are excelling in a male-dominated industry. Onboard there were top engineers and senior managers from some of the UK’s largest rail networks, including the Head of Performance and Customer Relationships and the Head of Route Human Resources.


On arrival at Liverpool, the group were greeted by another inspirational female figurehead, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Anna Rothery – the UK’s first black, female Lord Mayor – who answered questions on her own journey to the top of a traditionally male-orientated profession.


The students then headed to the Museum of Liverpool for interactive workshops and a look around the impressive transport-themed exhibits.

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, equality, diversity and inclusion lead at Community Rail Lancashire said: “The driver behind our event was about bringing together the group from Manchester United Foundation into a location that many of them haven’t been to before and beginning to challenge their perceptions. I believe that it’s the first time onboard a train for some of the young women who travelled with us, so what a brilliant chance for them to learn about an alternative career path and experience the excitement of catching the train to a new destination.”

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Anna Rothbury, said: “Events like this are crucial if we’re to ensure our young women know what their potential is in predominantly male-oriented professions. It’s important that they get a glimpse into the lifestyle and professions so that they can make informed decisions about their careers.

“I worked in a very male dominated workplace, so it was the norm for me. I would say to these young people be bold and brave and push the boundaries!”

Community Rail Lancashire organised the event in association with Manchester United Foundation and the ‘Next Move’ programme. Rob Martin, employability and skills manager for the Foundation, explained: “Next Move aims to empower young people with different skills and experiences so that they can make informed decisions about their future. This trip, working with Community Rail Lancashire, has been a great example of that.


“Some of the girls who came along today have never been on a train before, may never have been to Liverpool and, for some of them, have never been to Manchester Piccadilly station before. All of these experiences are helping to open up more options for these young girls in the future.”


Nawaha, a year 8 student at Stretford High School, said: “Today we’ve learnt that there is a lot of variety within the railway industry, which we didn’t know about before. It’s more than just engineering or being a conductor, there’s so many other paths you can take.”


Medina, 13, added: “Working in the railway used to be quite patriarchal but now, as time progresses, there are a lot more females getting into the industry. I’m definitely now considering a job in the railway after today.”