The society’s membership was then only open “to gentlemen associated with the transport industry” and the annual December gathering was strictly “for gentlemen only.”
Despite also attending their all male dinners in 2012 and 2013, when the details of his most recent attendance were made known Sir Peter Hendy issued a statement claiming:
“It never occurred to me there was a policy of excluding women and that hasn’t been referred to in the invitations I have received. Now it’s clear there appears to be such a policy I will on no account accept an invitation again.”TfL’s senior executives tend to be white and male. Of TfL’s seven chief officers, just oneis female and none are from a black and minority ethnic group.
Why is this important? Well, certainly I have no desire to tarnish the overall record of Sir Peter Hendy. We should never forget that under his leadership transport in London greatly improved. London is in many respects in debt to him for his years of service.
However his comments do very much reflect a wider issue about how leadership in the transport industry is very much a world that excludes too many people, especially women.
It says a great deal that anyone can attend a large event for three years in a row, with literally each and every table hosting only men, and assume that it was just normal that no women were present, even without a firm exclusion policy.
These are the facts. TfL’s senior executives tend to be white and male. Of TfL’s seven chief officers, just one (Michele Dix) is female and none are from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) group. This lack of diversity is also seen on the TfL Board appointed by the Mayor, with only 4 of 17 Board members being female and none from a BAME background.
However, there is some good news. Only last week, when appearing before the London Assembly Transport Committee, Mike Brown, TfL’s new Commissioner (and successor to Sir Peter Hendy), was quite clear that changes needed to be made, both within TfL’s senior management and in TfL’s Board – although ultimately the latter is a Mayoral decision.
It is also good news that just this week TfL’s Board are receiving a report which clearly states: “The composition of the Board could be enhanced to include additional skills such as Information Technology; retail/customer service; and health and safety, as well as be more representative of Londoners and have greater gender and ethnic diversity”.
In responding to my questions on workforce issues I was also really encouraged by the Commissioner’s overall stance towards attracting new people into the organisation.
Historically TfL has tended to appoint senior executives from within the transport industry, however if the industry is almost exclusively male, such a policy will just ensure all future senior executives are male as well.
It seems that a more open approach to recruitment will now take place and that experience and talent from other industries will also be considered in future recruitment decisions.
I was also genuinely impressed with the Commissioner’s commitment to ensuring that recruitment was opened up at all levels of TfL, not merely at the highest level. He is absolutely right to say that starting from school career advice there is an issue the transport industry is often not seen as a real option for young women.
London faces many challenges over the next few years, especially as to how its transport infrastructure manages to cope with such a rapidly growing population and of course how to deal with the fallout from its treasury revenue grant coming to an end.
In meeting these huge challenges it is vital that the capital recruits from the widest pool of people and that it has senior executives and a Board that reflect and fully understand the needs of all Londoners.
While we have a long way to go, it does seem some positive changes are now on the way.
(For more details of changes to workforce issues at TfL see the webcast of the London Assembly Transport Committee held on Thursday 10th December, starting at 35 minutes and 40 seconds)
Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson on the London Assembly and the party’s candidate for Mayor of London.