Home > News >

Celebrating women in public transport

Torrens Connect celebrated International Women’s Day with a special event at its Glengowrie depot.

The speakers and panelists at Torrens Connect's IWD event standing in a line holding up their hand
Speakers and panellists at Torrens Connect’s International Women’s Day event

The public transport sector is one of the lowest employers of women in Australia – something that Torrens Connect is very keen to change.

International Women’s Day in March was celebrated at Torrens Connect with a special event at the Glengowrie tram depot honouring the achievements of some of the leading women in Australian public transport.

Catherine Baxter (Chief Operating Officer, Metro Trains Melbourne), Samantha Abeydeera (Managing Director, Transport, NRMA) and Deborah Spring (Executive Chair & Chief Executive Officer, Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board) all travelled to Adelaide to speak about their careers and personal experiences.

The fourth speaker was Leanne Robinson from Aspen Solutions who has been working with Torrens Connect to develop programs and deliver training to Torrens Connect employees.

A photo of speaker Leane Robinson, Aspen Solutions
Leane Robinson, Aspen Solutions

Speaker Catherine Baxter’s advice for women is to take a chance and apply for roles. “Applying for roles you want is a bit like Lotto: you’ve got to be in it to win it,” she says. “Too often women don’t apply as they feel they don’t have 100% of the skills or experience required, and this often limits their options and career.”

Speaker Catherine Baxter (Chief Operating Officer, Metro Trains Melbourne, addrssing the crowd with a tram in the background
Catherine Baxter, Chief Operating Officer, Metro Trains Melbourne

Torrens Connect’s General Manager Magda Robertson is passionate about not only increasing the number of women in the sector but encouraging them into management positions.

“There have been a number of people who have helped and inspired me in my career,” says Magda. “We want to celebrate these women not only for their own ground-breaking achievements but for the leadership that they have shown. These are the people who inspire the future female leaders of the public transport industry.”

NRMA’s Samantha Abeydeera encourages women and others who keen to build a career to foster relationships in their industry. “If you aspire to a certain role, it’s so helpful to be able to ask someone about their journey to that dream job,” she says. “It will expand your networks and your thinking.”

A photo of Speaker Samantha Abeydeera, Managing Director, Transport, NRMA
Samantha Abeydeera, Managing Director, Transport, NRMA

RISSB’s Deborah Spring says that it is important for women to back and trust themselves. “Don’t be afraid of daring to challenge, but be afraid of not challenging,” she says.

Deborah Spring addressing the crowd with a tram in the background
Deborah Spring, Executive Chair & Chief Executive Officer, RISSB

Approximately 50 guests attended the event. These included Torrens Connect’s female employees, members of Torrens Connect’s Board, and representatives from other organisations connected to the public transport industry.

The group assembled in Torrens Connect’s maintenance barn with lunch served on board a stabled tram.

A photo of guests at the event, sitting on chairs, applauding

“We are incredibly proud of what our people do and incredibly proud of our vehicles and infrastructure,” says General Manager Magda Robertson. “This is a working depot and events like this give us opportunities to show others what we do.”

After lunch, a convened panel fielded questions from the audience, discussing gender-related issues, and how to encourage more women to take up some of the diverse range of careers available in public transport.

In a sign of changing times, half of the trainees who have most recently started at Torrens Connect are women – the first time that has happened.

The event was greatly enjoyed by all who attended and plans are already under way for a similar event in 2022.

A panel of 6 people sitting on chairs
The panel (from left): Magda Robertson, Meg Abaldonado, Peter Meyer, Ian Quarrie, Samantha Abeydeera, Catherine Baxter