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Highway Traffic Management celebrate international women’s day by speaking to a number of their female employees to hear about their experiences and see how the traffic management industry can continue to inspire inclusion and have better representation of women within the sector.

As a business, HTM are have been leading the way for some time with a female Finance Director, Tracy Rogers, who has worked her way up through the business. There has been more recruitment of women within the business over recent years with representation increasing not only on site in operational roles, but also within the office environment across a number of departments from HR and Payroll, Marketing and Communications and Health and Safety.

The business works in partnership with Women in Construction of which they are gold members and attends various sessions hosted by Women in Transport throughout the year. Some two years ago, the company also created their own initiative to help drive more females within the industry with their Target 40 campaign.

As part of International Women’s Day, we caught up with women across the business to hear about their experiences within the industry and what can be done to continue to see more female representation.

Cherelle Douglas, T1/T2 TMO:

When did you join the industry and how did you come across the job? I joined the industry in November 2022 through Women in Construction after a member recommended I apply for a position. I found it daunting in the beginning but I’m quite confident now because of the Buddy Scheme that HTM offer.

What industry did you work in before? Before traffic management I worked in a school setting as a teaching assistant and also did part-time painting and plastering.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry? As a woman, I think a huge misconception is that women can’t do this type of work, but I’m living proof that we can and are!

What positive changes have occurred in the workplace regard gender equality during your time in the workforce? Since I first started I’ve seen a lot of change in the attitude to females in the workplace, at first some would make remarks about females coming in and being able to do the work but by the time they got to know me their opinions changed and I’m seen more as one of them instead of us and them.

Another big positive which I was super happy about was the business listening to the ladies regarding uniforms and the fit, we have had new uniform to try and gave back feedback and the company has been great with supplying what’s best for us, which I really appreciate, because we spend all day in these uniforms and have to move around in them.

How do you handle or overcome imposter syndrome, and what advice would you give to others experiencing it in their careers? I’m not sure I have had imposter syndrome but definitely lacked in confidence, I would recommend the buddy scheme to anyone that lacks confidence because you cam learn and grow in confidence when you are comfortable with someone consistent.

If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be? Advice to my younger self would have been not to care about silly opinions and biases because it will hold you back, go for it regardless of what anyone thinks, its your life, live it – for you! Find your own path – you might just find you love it!

Zaynah Khan, TMO:

When did you join the industry and how did you come across the job? I joined the TM industry last year when it was suggested by one of my advisors from Shaw Trust. I had been looking for a new job for months and was already familiar with construction due to my Engineering background.

What role did you start off in and how did you find it learning the ropes? I started off at the very bottom as I had no tickets when I joined. Now, nearly a year on, I’m training to lead my own jobs. Since being with HTM I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing people who have helped and taught me along the way.

What industry did you work in before? Before TM, I have worked many roles such as administration, caring, waitering, receptionist and none have been as exciting and rewarding as being a traffic operator.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry? The main misconception I had when joining this field work myself is that I would be treated differently and be left out. That is far from the truth, I have always have the most supportive team that have my back and help me everyday.

What surprised you when you joined?What surprises is me is the minimal amount of women in this industry. There’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t. You achieve amazing things when you put your mind to it!

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry? The biggest challenge for me was confidence when I first started. I am very thankful to those in HTM who have helped me come along way since then.

What do you like most about your role? The thing I enjoy most about my job is doing something different everyday. Seeing new places and talking to new people. You learn alot from others.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the industry? My advice is to not overthink or assume about the role. If I did that, I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet some of the most funniest people and experience some awesome adventures.

Lucinda Sturman, HR Manager:

When did you join the TM industry and how did you come across the job? I joined the industry when I joined the business in January 2023.  I was told about the job by someone who works here who knew I was applying for a new role.

How did you find it joining the TM industry?Having previously worked in retal, it was very different, a lot more relaxed in a lot of ways and the people have more fun.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry? Lots of people don’t understand what TM is, let alone the integral part it plays in improving our infrastructure

What surprised you when you joined?The amount of responsibility on staff on the front line, they are responsible for the safety of so many people.

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry?There are a lot of people who have extensive experience, it is hard to be the newbie and at times it is hard to challenge the way things have been done

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the industry?Do it, it is full of great people.

What do you like most about your role?The best thing about my role is the ability to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives while contributing to the success HTM.

What positive changes have occurred in the workplace regarding gender equality during your time in the workforce? When I joined the business there was a real drive from the leadership to see women better represented within our workforce, and a passion to ensure they receive fair treatment.  I have been able to develop this further by introducing measures to break down some of the barriers for our women, such as providing free sanitary products, introducing a menopause policy and training, introducing female-specific PPE, and providing guidance on how we can make our women feel comfortable.

What (if any) challenges and changes have you seen? I have personal experience of different treatment from my male colleagues from some of our operatives when I have challenged their behaviour that does not align with our values.

How has the perception and acceptance of female leadership evolved in the workplace during your career? There is greater acceptance of female leadership than when I joined the world of work, as a society we must continue to celebrate the value females bring to these roles to empower women to step into these positions.

Have you ever had a mentor or someone who significantly influenced your career? What impact did they have on your professional career? I had a female mentor in a previous role, she empowered me to speak up in an extremely male-dominated environment and supported me to believe that it was OK to have a voice. Women are often labeled as bossy or overbearing when they are assertive. It can prove a real barrier for us, we need to recognise the difference between bossy and assertiveness for women to thrive personally and professionally.

How do you handle or overcome imposter syndrome, and what advice would you give to others experiencing it in their careers?If you look around a room and no one looks like you that is not a bad thing, that means that you can bring a new and valuable perspective to the conversation.

Have you previously had to navigate and overcome gender biases or stereotypes in your day-to-day interactions at work, during the course of your career? Absolutely.

If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be? Advocate for yourself, even if it makes other people feel uncomfortable.

Mo Stephano, HR and Payroll Coordinator:

What role did you start off in (e.g. trainee) and how did you find it learning the ropes? I am the HR & Payroll Coordinator and the first few weeks were really fast paced. There is a lot to get my head around on how TM operates and the operatives as well as knowing our policies-everyday is currently a learning curve for me.

What was the timeline / steps for you to get there? My career started after I gave birth to my last child. I started off in retail and worked my way up from being a customer assistant to being Manager. I had my first HR role in manufacturing which was really interesting and also where I picked up my payroll skills. I also went to college to study for a CIPD course and am currently (still) trying to finish my Level 5 as an HR Professional.

What industry did you work in before?
Retail, manufacturing, call centres/customer services –  a real variety.

How did you find it joining the TM industry?Really interesting. I think I’m lucky I joined HTM Ltd as there is so much development work going on and its all very exciting to see the company growing and changing. The people are also down to earth and inclusive.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry? It’s full of men! And maybe that I would meet people who didn’t realise and acknowledge the value of HR.

What surprised you when you joined? How much fun working with the team in the office would be – collaboration is practised daily and I don’t have to do everything by myself.

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry? It can be a bit of a closed network – preference for those with industry knowledge to those with none – so getting a job can be hard. Our trainee programme is looking to change this!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the industry?Try it – why not? It’s definitely a positive learning curve and there is potential to grow career wise and financially!

Why do you like most about your role?
Everyday is different. I learn something new and I have a great team who are very supportive

Cheri Hicks, Fleet Administrator and Weekend TMO:

How did you find it joining the TM industry? Great, I love being out on the road and learning new things, I’ve always been a more hands on person. I originally started in the role of the TMCA Secretarty so understanding the more technical isde of the industry was quite difficult.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry?That women aren’t strong enough for the job.

What industry did you work in before? Iwas the Branch Administrator for Euro Car parts in Aston.

What surprised you when you joined? The lengthy process it actually takes to but a job out there to make it safe for road users and pedestrians.

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry?I don’t believe there are any big challenges, but the public and the weather can be a little challenging at times!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the industry? It can be a little strenuous at times, like any job, but to just go for it.

Kayleigh Sheward, HSEQ Administrator:

How did you find it joining the TM industry? To start with I was really nervous and unsure but from the moment I joined I had the best support and was welcomed by everyone which made it so much easier for me. I am currently still in my role as HSEQ Administrator but my job role is changing and I am going down the ESG route, which is really exciting!

What positive changes have occurred in the workplace regarding gender equality during your time in the workforce?Everyone is treated as an equal, regardless of their gender. The understanding around EDI and gender equality is now higher than ever.

What misconceptions do you think people have about the industry?It’s just for men and that it’s only cones and barriers – both of which are wrong!

What surprised you when you joined?How welcoming everyone was and how much potential development there is across all areas of the business.

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry? Getting the knowledge and experience to start with, once your foot is in the door you can achieve anything.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the industry?Do it!

Why do you like most about your role?The fact that every day is different and the sense of fulfilment I get from my tasks.

What (if any) challenges and changes have you seen?So many women don’t think they can do the work of a TMO and it seems really difficult to get them to join due to the stereotyping of it being a “mans” job.

How has the perception and acceptance of female leadership evolved in the workplace during your career?More and more women have entered the management of HTM and all of them have brought knowledge, experience and laughter into the office. All of these have helped me develop, motivated me and assisted me throughout my time here.

How do you handle or overcome imposter syndrome, and what advice would you give to others experiencing it in their careers?I really struggle with this. Find someone you trust and can rely on and talk to them about what you are feeling and allow them to support you and encourage you to have that bit more faith in yourself.

If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be? 
Everything turns out okay in the end, keep your head up high and don’t let fear hold you back.

Sharon Yates, TMO:

When did you join the TM industry and what role did you start off in?
I joined December 2020, I started as a trainee. I took this job during COVID times, never for one minute did I think this job was for me!! , but you had to take what you could get as times were tough.

What role are you in now and what was the timeline / steps for you to get there?
I found it difficult to take it all in at first as it was completely a changing my job rowl, as I was previously working as a chef. Within a year I had worked myself up through my tickets –  everyone at HTM has always been supportive to me and I felt comfortable joining a prominently male environment.

What are the biggest challenges for anyone starting out in the TM industry?
I think the biggest challenge for anyone thinking about joining this industry is be open minded, and remember at times it’s quite hard work physically and mentally, and you must have thick skin at times! But overall I love it here, getting to experience new challenges each day.

Flora Donnelly, Marketing and Communications Manager:

What role did you start off in and how did you find it joining the TM industry? I started off as Marketing & Communications Coordinator and found it very interesting joining the industry – there’s a whole world of TM and there is a lot more planning and care that goes into traffic management. Ultimately we are ensuring people can navigate their journeys safely.

What do you like most about your role?I enjoyed joining the business at a time of exciting growth and having the chance to put my own stamp on the marketing and communications of the business. I enjoy being the one to tell the story of our business and shout about all the great work we do.

What positive changes have occurred in the workplace regarding gender equality during your time in the workforce? There has been such a push to recruit more women into the business and this is visible within the office and out on the road. Having more female colleagues in the office is a bonus and it’s great that the business has identified the need to attract more women into the industry, not just at HTM, across a variety of roles.

What (if any) challenges and changes have you seen? The company culture is what drew me in to applying for a job with HTM. To have joined and see how much the company looks ahead and wants to embrace change, diversify and grow (in more ways that one) is something that is plain to see. It’s exciting to see the challenges and be part of a company trying to overcome them.

How has the perception and acceptance of female leadership evolved in the workplace during your career? There are women across every level of the business from Director to trainee TMO – it’s fantastic to have female representation to role model and to have seen the increase in women in management roles increase since I joined.

How do you handle or overcome imposter syndrome, and what advice would you give to others experiencing it in their careers?Speak to someone you trust who perhaps is within your area of knowledge – they can often help rationalise and make you see things from an another perspective. I’d also say having good working relationships is a bonus – a supportive culture and people who celebrate your wins helps to make a huge impact.

If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to fail – in my experience it’s when you will learn the most! And make sure to have as much fun along the way as you can.

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