Narelle Rogers and Kate Tomkins: women in rail mentoring program

The ARA Women in Rail Mentoring Program is a six-month program designed to support, guide and retain women employed in the rail industry.

Narelle Rogers first joined as a mentor in 2019 and this year decided to mentor again. In addition, Narelle became Chair of the Community of Practice for Mentors. Kate Tomkins became Narelle’s mentee.

Narelle Rogers

National Competency and Training Manager – Rail, Rail Group, John Holland Group

Narelle has spent over a decade in rail-related learning environments.

She was previously V/Line’s Infrastructure Competency Manager, where she developed competency frameworks for track and signalling workforce development and compliance.

She has held consulting roles focused on organisational development, change initiatives and RTO compliance and delivery, and brings extensive experience in building leadership capability, technical training delivery and rail safety compliance.

Now the John Holland National Rail Competency and Training Manager and is the Chair of the National Rail Industry Worker Governance committee, she is also completing a Master of Applied Positive Psychology.

“I am passionate about supporting women to flourish,” she says.

“We are good at many things but often find it difficult to ask for what we need.

“As we progress through our careers, it is important to build our internal resources to create self-efficacy and the confidence to realise our full potential.

“Mentors can play a critical role in supporting others to think critically about what strengths an individual possesses naturally and where growth can occur through critical self-reflection.

“Rail is traditionally a male dominated industry, so mentoring women to identify their value and purpose is a critical step to achieving gender equality and increase the attraction, retention, and success of women in the rail industry.

“The ARA Women in Rail mentoring program fully supports both mentors and mentees to understand roles and expectations and assists participants through valuable training and guidance.

“It provides an important opportunity for social connection and networking which builds professional support and recognition of the value of the broader rail industry and its diversity.”

In terms of insights for other mentors, Narelle recommends to get curious.

“Mentoring is a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself and others,” she says.

“It is a rich experience that brings reciprocal learning for both the mentee and the mentor.

“Understanding the role of the mentor and avoiding the need ‘to fix’ is critical to building capability and fostering empowerment in others.

“Whilst strategies to attract more females to the rail industry might be successful through graduate and other programs, the ultimate test will be whether they stay.

“These are two sides of the same coin and both necessary for the success of the rail industry.

“That is where it is critical to elevate and celebrate the success of women in rail to create cultures where women are truly equal and supported through all stages of their career.

“Research shows that organisations benefit from increased performance, productivity, and profitability under female leadership, an equal workforce benefits everyone.”

Narelle also commends the very active involvement of male mentors under the program.

“Gender equality is not a women’s issue, it is everyone’s issue,” she says.

“The first step in uncovering unconscious bias is self-awareness.

“The willingness to learn and engage in perspective taking by men is so important to understand how we can do better and how the collective industry can shine a light on opportunities for increased opportunity and equity for women.

“We walk the path to increased gender equality in rail together.”

Kate Tomkins

Training Coordinator – Rail Operations, Workforce Management Team, Laing O’Rourke Australia

Kate has worked in the rail industry for over 10 years and has extensive experience and knowledge in the training and competency environment.

During this time, she has supported various Laing O’Rourke projects across the country in a training and competency capacity.

She is currently part of Laing O’Rourke’s Rail Operations Workforce Management Team; which manages the rail workforce across Laing O’Rourke’s Rail Operations.

She is a member of the National Rail Industry Worker Governance Committee as well as various sub committees supporting the Rail Industry Worker Program.

Kate says being a mentee has provided her personal and professional growth, support and guidance to help set her goals and develop strategies to achieve them.

“I believe, to be able to get the most out of your mentoring relationship, all mentees should go into the program with an open mind, be honest, plan ahead, agree on meeting times and length and plan these in your calendar in advance,” she says.

“A week prior to each meeting with your mentor send an email with an outline of what you would like to discuss – this gives your mentor and yourself time to prepare, so each of your session will be really productive.

“And ask questions.

“Mentoring is a great opportunity to improve self-confidence and leadership skills.

“I recommend these steps to develop your self-confidence: start from understanding your strengths and lesser strengths and how you can lean into your stronger strengths to tackle everyday challenges and support your lesser strengths.

“This also helps you see where you derive your passion and inspiration from; leaning towards these areas of strength gives you great fulfilment and therefore an increase of your work satisfaction, productivity and your own confidence in what you can achieve.

“This program is tailored to your needs and can help you discover who you are and what you want to achieve both professionally and personally.

“Your mentoring journey can be whatever you would like it to be; it is an opportunity to feel comfortable, relaxed and talk about both professional and personally challenges, opportunities and growth.

“There is so much encouraging guidance from mentors that truly care about supporting and helping you overcome these challenges and to achieve your goals.

“Rail can attract and retain female employees through enhancing sense of belonging for women, equality and flexible work arrangements.

“Conversations initiated through mentoring relationship are contributing in this great trend.”