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To mark International Women's Day (IWD), Stagecoach South East is sharing the stories of its female workforce in order to inspire other women to take up roles in the transport sector.
IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for organisations to think, act and be gender inclusive. From drivers and engineers to company directors - the bus operator employs 207 women across Kent and East Sussex. This has risen by 8% since 2018.
Over the years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of women undertaking manual roles in operations and engineering at Stagecoach South East - as more than 75% of the female workforce work across these departments.
#ChooseToChallenge is the theme for this year's campaign - which encourages people to speak out about gender bias and inequality.
To celebrate the global event, we caught up with seven inspirational women to find out what it's like to work in an industry that has been historically male dominated.
Just under 18 months. Prior to that, I completed 2 years on the graduate scheme.
I worked in various customer service roles through school and uni whilst also teaching music (drums) in my spare time. This was such a rewarding job and reaffirmed that my true passion is working with people, helping them to develop and progress – something which I looked for in a career, as well as a job which offered variety and made a difference to people. Stagecoach ticked those boxes, and to work for a company whose work added value - working in a team to provide affordable transport to those that need it - was the icing on the cake.
I joined Stagecoach as a graduate back in 2017, after finishing my Masters degree in Business Management. I spent my first year based in Northampton where I completed training in all areas of the business, with the highlight being learning to drive a bus, before moving to my first managerial post as Assistant Operations Manager at Stockport depot in Manchester. I had a fantastic first two years with the company, gained so much knowledge about the business and met some amazing people along the way. In 2019, I took the next step to Operations Manager when I was offered the role at Eastbourne depot. What a 3 years it has been!
The bus industry has traditionally been a male-dominated industry and I think it's so important to buck the trend and encourage more women to choose this path. As a company, having more diversity drives positive change, as you'll have a greater breadth of skills within your team, more creativity and innovation, which can only be a positive thing for businesses and for their employees.
I’m the 4th generation in my family to be involved in the bus industry, my Dad worked as a bus driver, my Grandad and Great Grandad both worked as bus conductors – you might say the bus industry is in my blood!
I have worked at Stagecoach for a little over 9 years!
For me it’s the interaction with our customers – I’m always being given chocolate or refreshments from our locals, which is really lovely! I enjoy engaging with the passengers and listening to their stories, as well as catching up with a group of local deaf students who regularly take the bus and who I used to work with - it's really great to see their progress. I should add that I’ve been lucky enough to help out other departments in the business; from promoting bus launches and working with the Customer Service team, to assisting the front office (which is quite an eye opener seeing what goes into the day to day of running a bus service!).
The bus industry, like many other businesses, has been male dominated for a number of years. However, I feel more women should join the industry as it’s a great place to work - it’s also a lot easier to drive a bus nowadays 😉 so why not give it a go!
Meet Danielle Stratford 👋
There are two things that are really important to me in the work I do; having the ability to develop others, helping them be the best version of themselves possible and delivery amazing service to the public. The bus world allows me to do both of these things which I am extremely passionate about.
As the South East's Training, Development & Employee Engagement Manager, I look after the training and development needs for everyone in the business. This is really varied, ranging from the new drivers who start their apprenticeship with us, through to our leaders who I find development opportunities for. I also look after all things engagement, supporting our South East family to feel valued in what they do and encouraging them to go the extra mile.
For me, it's all about the people. We have a real mix in the business, and this means that no two conversations are ever the same! I love the balance of those with extensive knowledge and experience in the bus world, working alongside those who bring fresh ideas and ways of working.
I would encourage anyone to choose a career path that allows them to work where their passion lies, and not based on any preconceived ideas of gender inequality. I believe it is so important that teams are diverse, with differences respected, to enable collaborative, effective and successful business.
I have worked with Stagecoach South East at Folkestone bus depot for almost one and a half years!
I have always had a passion for driving and taking road trips; this passion is what inspired me to join the bus industry.
The reason I wanted to become a bus driver is because I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people and I love working in my local community.
I love the challenges it brings, like the change in weather and how we overcome these changes. I also enjoy seeing our regular customers.
Public transport plays a vital part in getting people to and from the places they want or need to be. There are so many moving parts to consider when running a bus service and I was really keen to use my problem-solving skills to help make public transport better for all.
It's my role as the Performance Improvement Manager to oversee a significant increase in bus punctuality, which our customers in the South East say is the thing that matters to them the most. It’s my job to identify the gaps between the timetable and the reality before working with key stakeholders to remove those gaps.
It's an exciting place to be! As someone that is very new to the industry, I am fascinated by the logistics and how much effort goes into running a bus service.
To diversify and strengthen the world of bus!
I have worked at Stagecoach South East for 4 years and nearly 15 years with Stagecoach.
I was looking at graduate programmes and the Stagecoach scheme offered the opportunity to work in roles that had variety day to day with good progression opportunities.
I started on the graduate scheme with my first year in Chesterfield where I spent some time in all departments; I learnt to drive a bus, worked in the engineering department and control office as well as cleaning and fuelling buses. In my second year I was an Assistant Operations Manager in Aldershot and then I assisted on short term secondments until I took on an Operations Manager role in Dumfries and Stranraer. I moved down to London as Garage Operations Manager in Barking before moving to Catford depot. I then joined megabus as Operations Director for Europe when megabus expanded into Europe and set up depots in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium.
In addition to working on the day to day management of the local bus network, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on special projects such as organising the transport for the Popes Visit to Glasgow in 2010 and setting up new depots and businesses in different countries. I’ve been able to move around with my job and work with some great people each time.
I think diversity has always been important to senior leaders with the desire to have a workforce that represents the local community, but now there is more of a discussion and awareness in the public domain of the benefits of this. The task for us now is how to attract and retain more diversity in our applicants and colleagues. Having more diversity in our workforce gives us more perspectives and ideas as well as meaning that we are more representative of our customers.
I wanted to become an Engineer because when I was a lot younger I had an off road motorbike and wanted to learn how to fix it myself - so that's how I caught the bug!
I started working at Stagecoach 10 years ago as a local bus driver and then joined the Engineering department - or the dark-side as we like to call it! 😂
My biggest achievement so far has been my time spent in the Armed Forces and more recently my promotion to Workshop Manager at Dover bus depot.
I think it’s important that women choose Engineering as it offers so much. It offers intellectual development and the diversity of the role is challenging - but it is also a lot of fun and a break from the norm! Engineering provides a good sense of achievement and pride; something I feel a lot of jobs don’t provide.