To celebrate International Women’s Day today (Friday, March 8), Northern Rail is turning the spotlight on the women who work for one of the UK’s biggest train operators.

While the industry has been historically dominated by men, Northern has 'taken a different approach; to recruitment in recent years to 'ensure it has a more diverse workforce that better represents the communities it serves'.  

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Almost 20 per cent of Northern employees are women, with more than 1,300 employed in a variety of roles across the business.

Lauren Pugh, 35, is a driver based in Blackburn and is a former British Transport Police officer.

Lauren joined Northern as a driver seven years ago, so she could take on a new challenge and spend more time with her children.

She said: “When I’m in the cab, I’m focused on being the best driver I can be.

"When I step out, I’m focused on being the best mum I can be.

“I love the job, it’s amazing. I walk around with a smile on my face every day and still pinch myself that I get to do it.

“I do permanent early shifts so I can pick my children up from school every day and take them out for activities, but also make sure I’m well rested for work the next day.

“I used to miss putting them to bed all the time and now I go to bed at the same time as them.”

She said most of her colleagues are men but there “is no divide” and she is always encouraging other women to consider a career in rail.

Lauren continued: "Go for it. When I joined, I didn’t even know how my car radiator worked.

“I had doubts. I didn’t know if I could actually drive a train and thought I might be making a big mistake.

“But as you go through your training and all the exams, you gain confidence and start believing in yourself. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’ve never looked back.”

Angela Davey, 44, is a conductor based in Blackburn, who joined Northern in 2020 after working as a flight attendant for 18 years. 

The mother-of-two said she had seen other workers join the rail industry as there are a number of transferable skills.

Angela said: “Northern just happened to be recruiting. I thought ‘you know, what, I'll give it a go’ and was lucky to get a position in Blackburn.

“I love being a conductor and I love being out on the trains. With my background in customer services, I like talking to people. You're out there in the midst of it and every day is completely different.

“You never get the same day twice even though we're doing the same routes, as the passengers are different and the situations are different. I find that the shifts go really quickly as there's always something occurring.”

Angela said the shifts can be challenging but she has a supportive family who help with childcare and she gets to see her two children every day.

She is also keen to progress in her career and has been working as a deputy shift manager in Blackburn since May.

Angela continued: “I think most people that do join the railway stay in for years, so I would definitely encourage people to give it a go.

“If you don't particularly like the role that you start out with, there are lots of other opportunities for you.

“It's still male dominated in terms of the numbers, but I think since I've been here it's changed dramatically.”

She added: “In the time I’ve been here, I’ve never been treated as anything other than an equal.

“We do all get along, everybody respects each other and is there to help you, especially because the railway can be quite daunting and the training is intense when you start.”

Find out more about jobs with Northern on the rail operator's website.