Profiling TrackSAFE’s women in leadership on International Women’s Day.

Women have made important gains in representation at senior leadership levels in recent decades and this is nowhere more evident than at the TrackSAFE Foundation. This International Women’s Day, TrackSAFE is proud that in an industry such as rail, where 73 per cent of employees are men, it now boasts five female directors, or 38 per cent of its 13-seat board.

TrackSAFE is Australia’s only harm prevention charity focused on reducing deaths, injuries and near misses on the rail network. TrackSAFE also works to improve the wellbeing of rail employees.

TrackSAFE Directors include:

• Catherine Peppler, Head of Safety, Health and Environment, Aurizon.

• Caroline Wilkie, CEO, Australasian Railway Association.

• Jane Lavender-Baker, Group Executive, Strategy, Culture and Reputation, ARTC.

• Kat Stapleton, CFO and Group Executive Finance & Corporate Services, Queensland Rail.

• Kate Bowman, Chief Corporate Services Officer, Pacific National.

TrackSAFE’s two senior employees are also women: Executive Director Heather Neil and Communications & Engagement Manager Hope Steele.

Queensland Rail’s Kat Stapleton, who has just completed another rotation as Acting CEO, says bringing gender balance to boards is important, with diversity and inclusion being key to leadership.

“In order to keep evolving and challenging the status quo of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’, having board members from different parts of the rail industry ecosystem provides a more holistic perspective,” she says.

“In addition, whilst our industry and workforce have traditionally had male over-representation, we now have a great platform to encourage more women to join rail.

“If we encourage more women into rail and others see the opportunities for an attractive and successful career in this industry, we will continue to see the closing of the gender divide, which will bring with it differing views to the table and different approaches to problem solving.”

Ms Stapleton, who has had senior roles at nbnCo, Bahrain Telecoms and began her career as a Royal Canadian Navy officer, says while she is passionate about creating career opportunities for women and promoting gender balance, being part of a cohesive and high-performing team is just as important.

“Working for the rail industry isn’t about gender – it is about working as part of a safety focused, high-performing team.

“The recent flood recovery in Queensland has been a perfect example with men and women working side-by-side, looking out for each other, rolling up their sleeves and ensuring we can get our network up and running safely and as quickly as possible to get our customers where they need to go.”

Aurizon’s Catherine Peppler has extensive experience in rail management here and overseas.

Ms Peppler says it is incredibly important for a board to have a diversity of thought, opinion and experience, all of which are influenced by critical factors including gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and age. 

“In the case of TrackSAFE, having diversity in the board that aligns with our community and industry will help us target and understand how we reduce deaths, injuries and near-hits on the rail networks across Australia,” she says.

“The representation of woman across the rail sector continues to improve and women are represented in a range of roles including train drivers, network controllers, maintainers, electricians to name a few. 

“The TrackSAFE board has a number of women on it and has a broad diversity of representation from across the rail sector including freight, passenger, networks and unions. 

“Our collective experience is what helps us improve rail safety across the Australian rail sector.”

Jane Lavender-Baker agrees.

“There are lots of different types of diversity we are encouraging across the industry, and gender is an absolutely critical one,” Ms Lavender-Baker says.

“Having a balance of genders around the table means you are making better decisions and you are far more representative of the community and the industry.

“As an industry board it is important that we lead the way in terms of what diversity looks like.

“Rail is a historically male-dominated industry so it’s even more important that boards like ours make sure that there is a there is an appropriate level of representation.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wilkie is particularly passionate about ensuring the rail industry continues to improve gender diversity.

“While the rail industry has made improvements in recent years, the fact remains that less than a third of the rail workforce is female. We have a tremendous opportunity as our industry grows to increase female participation across all levels.”

“As a membership association the ARA has an important leadership role to play in promoting gender diversity. That is why the ARA is focused on a program of work that supports the advancement of women in the rail industry and provides practical tools to assist those seeking to improve gender diversity in their businesses.

“Some of the ARA’s initiatives include our Women in Rail Mentoring program and Diversity Council of Australia training program, which have both been incredibly popular.

“With the huge pipeline of rail projects ahead, attracting, retaining and promoting more women will be a crucial part of meeting the needs of a growing workforce.”

Kate Bowman of Pacific National says having women in leadership is important, not only through the diversity it brings but also through the image of an organisation it can project.

“Having women in senior positions and as board representatives demonstrates that shift in the industry we are looking for, to make it a more inclusive and diverse workplace,” she says.

“We want to show the world there are senior women in these organisations, particularly rail which, because of its history, has an image as old-school male dominated, hasn’t changed in 100 years, is blue collar.

“Diversity in all respects is important, but in the context of International Women’s Day it is important to recognise that we are striving to raise the bar for women in our organisations and our industry”.

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