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Women on the network

At SNCF Réseau, women are still a minority, especially in the technical categories

Like the majority of French industrial enterprises, SNCF Réseau still has far too few women in its ranks. At the end of 2017, they represented only 12.6% of the total workforce, as against 20% for the SNCF Group. 19.6 % have managerial status but only 7.3% work as operatives and 12.6 % as supervisors in the field. By contrast, the number of women occupying managerial positions is progressing: the percentage of female managers has doubled over the last 5 years (6.5% in 2016 as against 3% in 2011), with an increase of 7.5% in 2017.

Greater diversity for better performance and more social justice

Studies* have shown that mixed gender teams tend to be more open to change and more tolerant of other viewpoints. It would seem that women in traditionally male professions are more devoted to their jobs than their male colleagues. Bringing more women into the fold at all levels and in all sectors should therefore be good for performance. By broadening its talent pool, SNCF Réseau stands to gain in terms of innovation, skills and abilities and generally contribute to the wellbeing of its staff. For men can also benefit from schemes designed to facilitate the lives of women in the workplace (teleworking, day nurseries, etc.)!

« By recruiting more women, we are aiming to achieve a better balance in our teams. »

Anouk Poirier, Employment Policy Manager at SNCF Réseau


Top Management commits to feminising the SNCF Réseau workforce

In July 2017, Executive Committee members signed the SNCF Group diversity manifesto, thereby subscribing to a number of obligations: overhaul of attitudes to stamp out sexism in all its forms, inclusive managerial culture, better work-life balance, career-long gender equality and more extensive female recruitment.

« Things are really moving now the Executive Committee and SNCF Réseau Board members have publicly come on side. » 

Anouk Poirier


Bringing women durably into the railway industry

To attract more women to its ranks and make gender equality part of its DNA, SNCF Réseau has adopted several tactics:

Direct recruitment action

  • By approaching the teaching professions, job centres, careers advisors and increasing the number of information sessions on railway employment opportunities
  • In schools, by sending female employees to give talks to the younger generation
  • Via “eAmbassadors”, using the social media to promote the railway professions
  • By forming partnerships with associations such as “Capital Filles” and “Elles Bougent” (“Women in [French] Rail”) to raise rail’s profile as a potential employer
  • By organising events such as “Girls’ Day” targeting female jobseekers, schoolgirls and women university students

HR awareness and advocacy

SNCF Réseau promotes gender equality through its performance evaluation grids and careers committees (COCA). Talent pipelines and applicant shortlists are skewed from the start towards female candidates. The company also primes its Careers Advisors on the need to attract more women to operational management functions and posts of responsibility via shortlists or succession plans.

Revamping attitudes

The aim is to shatter the old traditional stereotypes. To work, gender equality has to be universally owned. Actions here include:

  • "Gender equality" workshops
  • "Gender equality" week, where the subject is addressed from unusual angles: via sports, art, games, etc.
  • Breakfast or theatre workshop sessions, where gender equality during the review process is discussed
  • Regular meetings with the “gender equality representatives” of the different branches and units
  • Video clips of men recounting their experience of working with women
  • Alerting recruiters and training centre managers to gender equality issues
  • "DECLIC", an anti-sexism and sexual harassment campaign first launched in 2015 to combat these behaviours through education. The campaign is designed to make managers more aware of how to spot bad behaviour or unacceptable attitudes and how to deal with the perpetrators.

Within the Group, there are plenty of male colleagues who show their support for a change in attitudes, for example by joining "SNCF au féminin" (Women at SNCF) or the "Happy Men Share More" groups.

« We organise bi-monthly "gender equality" quizzes with prizes to increase awareness among operatives in the field, management categories having already been won over to the cause. Attitudes are changing: in my unit women account for nearly 20% of the workforce. »

Séverine Demontrond, Diversity & Gender Equality representative for Languedoc-Roussillon


« As an ambassadress for “SNCF au Féminin” at SNCF Réseau, my task consists of promoting gender equality and diversity and a better work-life balance. Our network, which already has 6,000 members, is innovative, inclusive, federative and accessible. Members of the opposite sex are also welcome! »

Isabelle Bouillon, Operational Excellence representative, Traffic Management, South East region


And there is no lack of other forms of action in progress at SNCF Réseau to feminise the workplace

For example:

  • Interviews proposed systematically to new female recruits
  • Pilot “anti-sexism” sessions to increase awareness among members of the Greater Paris Regional Headquarters Occupational Health & Safety (OSH) Committee
  • Creation of a Yammer group as a forum for women operatives in the Maintenance & Work Division

« When I joined SNCF in 2005, I was one of only two women in the department. Luckily most of my colleagues were friendly and welcoming. Nowadays women have it much easier with the support systems in place to back them up. »

Audrey Heuillet, Work Package Manager, at the Paris North Infrastructure Centre


Kitted out for success: SNCF Réseau’s new workwear for women

In June 2018, SNCF Réseau launched a utility workwear range specially designed for the female form, a first in French industrial history. Parkas, tailored jackets, T-shirts with bust darts, high-back lumbar support trousers, technical undergarments, gloves, safety footwear, etc., all developed to combine comfort and design with the requisite high degree of protection for women operatives in the field.

« It took me no time at all to get used to my new work gear. The jacket fits well and is comfortable, the polos are nice to wear. I know I work in a man’s world but I’m really pleased that gender equality also means work garments designed with women in mind ». 

Olivia Marical, Product Support Manager Trestle Wagons at the Moulin-Neuf Industrial Track Unit



Points to remember

  • SNCF has embarked on a series of practical measures to cultivate a gender equality culture
  • Workwear suitably adapted to the female form
  • A 4-point SNCF Réseau workforce feminisation programme: boosting female recruitment, ensuring career-long equal opportunities, combatting all forms of sexism and improving the work-life balance.
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