How women can improve earnings in rail sector through inclusion
Advocacy to increase women’s participation across all sectors of the African economy was taken a notch higher as stakeholders observed that, despite widening skills and public scrutiny, the rail sector was still struggling to attract more women to opportunities in the industry.
To encourage more females to join the sector, the stakeholders canvassed pragmatic policies with a supportive environment.
Speaking at a virtual conference of Women Empowerment in Railway, titled, “Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future,” they urged organisations and businesses in the rail value chain to adopt flexible working practices, and give access to talent and skills to women that had been hindered by rigid working hours.
They also said that the rail industry could learn and benefit from this to ensure that female talents find rail an accessible, valid career option.
Acting Chief Executive Officer, Rail Safety Regulator, Tshepo Kgare, who spoke on “unconscious bias in the industry,” expressed worries over the security of women.
She said: “As commuters, women experience a lot of abuse, and we are considering segregating gender in spaces to encourage women to use the railway system and be safe. We have found that trained women drivers have been often subjected to verbal abuse. We need to have facilities to make women workers more comfortable.
“There is a need to be the correct policies in place regarding sexual harassment, access to platforms to express discomfort and managers who can act against it. As leaders, we need to sensitise our corporate environment to the needs of women, to attract more women within the space.”
African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr Amani Abou-Zied, noted that, while Africa had had rail systems since the middle of the 19th century, it was unacceptable that women were still a gross minority in this sector.
Abou-Zied argued that keeping women poor and not allowing them access to benefits is a form of violence. “We want to see more women in leadership positions.”
According to her, integrating women in the workplace is not philanthropy, as women could add up to $28 trillion to the world economy, above 26 per cent annual global gross domestic product (GDP), if given the chance.
“We need to change the image of railways where it is not male-dominated. Every project must have women responsiveness and women sensitivity.”
She added that women in rail should create their space on the table, saying “No one is going to invite you to the table.”
Chief Executive Officer, PRASA Rail, Nosipho Damasane, said there is a need for more policies that protect women in the workplace. Organisations need to adhere to equity policies and empower women financially, stating that creation of women’s forums, safe spaces, give women economic empowerment.
“We need to be active and intentional in terms of providing opportunities for women so that they can get more business and in turn be more independent. We need to ask what we are going to do differently to accommodate women,” Damasane said.
Earlier, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Transport, Dikeledi Magadzi, identified funding as a challenge, as financial distress to women is destructive to the family unit, and pleaded with executives “to look at the financial muscle of women. When you empower a woman, you empower a nation. As we develop designs in trains and train stations, we should consider designs that will make women comfortable.”
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