MP and Engineer Chi Onwurah says we must do more to promote women in rail and diversity in engineering

20 June 2019


  • Chi Onwurah, an influential MP and Chartered Engineer, has issued a rallying cry for female engineers ahead of International Women in Engineering Day;
  • Her comments follow a visit to Hitachi Rail’s state-of-the-art train factory in Newton Aycliffe, where she heard about the company’s work on diversity and inclusion
  • Onwurah’s visit was part of the Railway Industry Association’s Rail Fellowship Programme 2019, which showcases the rail sector to UK politicians

Chi Onwurah MP, a parliamentarian and Chartered Engineer, has issued a rallying cry to the rail industry ahead of International Women in Engineering Day, stating that ‘more needs to be done to promote women in engineering and in rail more widely.’
Onwurah has long been vocal about the need for diversity in the sector, serving as Chair of a cross party group of MPs on Diversity & Inclusion in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. To mark International Women in Engineering Day, Onwurah visited Hitachi Rail’s state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe, and met with young female engineers to hear their experiences and share insights from her own career.
The visit was part of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) Rail Fellowship Programme 2019, which showcases the work of the UK rail supply chain by encouraging parliamentarians and influencers to gain hands-on experience in the industry. Onwurah joins Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP, former Transport Secretary, and Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, alongside a host of cross-party parliamentarians as a member of the RIA Rail Fellowship. 
Chi Onwurah MP said: “As an engineer myself I have first-hand knowledge of the benefits diversity brings to the industry, and the importance of ensuring that everyone feels included and empowered to succeed.
“I strongly support the work of Hitachi Rail and other organisations in taking diversity seriously and putting practical initiatives in place to ensure progress. So it was great to see the work they do to promote diversity at their Newton Aycliffe site, as part of the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme.
“Overall, I firmly believe that more needs to be done to promote women in engineering and in rail more widely, and I am passionate to help achieve this however I can. Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day, I call on the industry to redouble its efforts to increase diversity in the sector.”
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “Chi Onwurah MP is right in calling for the rail industry to work even harder to get a new and diverse mix of people into the sector. 
“Rail is a fantastic industry to work in. It provides stimulating and fulfilling jobs that serve the UK by supporting economic growth and investment. So we must be doing all we can to bring new people in, whatever their gender, race, sexuality or background, and encourage as much diversity of thinking as possible in the sector.
“It has been exciting for the Railway Industry Association to partner with RIA members like Hitachi Rail to show supportive MPs like Chi Onwurah the work the rail industry is doing to further this agenda. I’d like to thank her for taking part in the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme, and for using the opportunity to highlight such an important issue to both policy makers and influencers, and the sector more widely.”
Karen Boswell, Managing Director, Hitachi Rail, said: “It is an absolute pleasure to host an MP who shares my passion for increasing diversity in engineering and the rail sector. Having a diverse workforce spurs creativity, innovation and high performance, and women are critical to this diversity mix.
“Increasing diversity at Hitachi Rail is a key priority to help our business grow. We are doing this through a number of initiatives, including ‘women-only’ open days at the factory to promoting STEM with primary school students to combat gender bias when female students pick subjects at secondary school. 
“Although I am pleased to say we are making progress, there is still a tremendous amount more that needs to be done across the sector to inspire the next generation of female rail engineers. MP visits like today help to raise awareness of this important issue.” 

Notes to Editors 

  1. Chi Onwurah is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the  Institution of Engineering Technology with  a degree in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College and a Masters in Business Administration from Manchester University. Before entering parliament she spent twenty years working as a professional engineer, building out telecoms networks in Europe, the US and Africa.
  2. International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and to focus attention on the career opportunities available to women and girls in the industry.
  3. About the Railway Industry Association (RIA): The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the trade association for UK-based suppliers to the UK and world-wide railways. It has some 260 companies in membership, in a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry. 
  4. About the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme: The RIA Rail Fellowship Programme is an exciting opportunity for UK parliamentarians and commentators to gain an insight into the valuable work of the UK rail supply chain at a RIA Member location. “Fellows” spend a day ‘on location’ with a RIA Member whose work is relevant to their role or constituency and experience opportunities reflecting the great diversity of technical disciplines within the rail sector. Candidates are gaining an invaluable understanding of a diverse workforce that together contribute £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people.  The RIA Rail Fellowship Class of 2019 will be awarded at the annual RIA Parliamentary reception on Tuesday 26th November 2019. More information here.
  5. About Hitachi Rail : Hitachi Rail is a global transport specialist with over 100 years of experience building pioneering trains, offering quality maintenance and developing innovative new technology. As a leader in rail we’re improving transport for passengers, connecting communities and helping to boost the UK’s economy. Having delivered the hugely popular Javelin HS1 fleet in advance of the 2012 London Games, Hitachi is delivering major orders for new trains, with 286 due to be in service by the end of 2021. Our purpose-built factory in County Durham is delivering 122 new high speed trains as part of the UK Government’s £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme and a fleet of 70 regional trains for Scotland. With a proud reputation for innovation, Hitachi is at the forefront of using new digital technology to enhance passenger experience and enrich Britain’s railway heritage. Hitachi Rail is growing rapidly, employing over 3,000 people and soon to be operational at 15 locations across the UK. For more information about the company, please visit

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