International Women in Engineering Day: Alexandra Hanson's Story

June 23, 2020

"I hadn’t really heard of engineering when I was at school so acting as a role model to inspire future generations is important to me."


Caption: Picture shows Network Rail graduate, Alexandra Hanson (left) on track with a colleague. Picture take pre-COVID-19.


Caption: From left to right picture shows: Alexandra operating the East Anglia train simulator; Alexandra's time working with Eurostar; Alexandra on track.

Today (Tuesday 23 June) is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). The annual event, led by the Women in Engineering Society, aims to raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all.   

Network Rail is working hard to ensure the workforce better represents our customers and society as a whole. Women now represent nearly 25 per cent of both our Board and executive leadership committee. We’re also growing gender and ethnicity diversity in our early entrant programmes, especially our graduate programmes.

Alexandra Hanson is currently in the final year of Network Rail’s two-year Civil Engineering graduate scheme, a world-class scheme that gives graduates the opportunity to experience some of the biggest engineering projects in Britain. This is Alexandra's story as a woman in the engineering industry. 

Early Career:

“I’ve always been fascinated with how things work. When I left school I followed my love for maths and the outdoors and began my engineering career studying for an undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering at Manchester University. Originally, I wanted to be a doctor, but I realised my strength was more in maths than biology. I did my undergrad and then, after a year out, I pursued a Masters in Civil Engineering as it’s a much more sustainable area of study.”

Joining Network Rail:

“When researching graduate schemes, I was encouraged by the visual of a female engineer in full PPE on the Network Rail website. It was a massive influence for me – I think Network Rail is really good at representing diversity. For me it’s all about smashing the stereotype and breaking the stigma – letting my colleagues know that I’m not fragile and I can carry heavy things just like my male counterparts. That said, my experience has been great so far. A lot of my male colleagues are genuinely interested in why I became an engineer.”

Changing the Culture:

“Nowadays, I feel like the majority of people don’t tolerate sexism. The culture is definitely changing and particularly at Network Rail, I feel confident in my line manager and my colleagues to support me in everything I do.

“Challenging stereotypes is a fundamental part of culture change and should begin at school. When I studied for my degree only 10% of my course-mates were female, so whilst it might seem like women are under-represented in the industry, the reality is that we need to get young women interested at school level. In fact, I’ve used my five days of volunteer leave to undertake STEM ambassador work at a local school – I hadn’t really heard of engineering when I was at school so acting as a role model to inspire future generations is important to me.”

For more information about Network Rail's graduate schemes, please visit the Network Rail website. To find out more about Network Rail's commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, Network Rail colleagues can visit MyConnect and those outside of Network Rail can visit the Network Rail website.