Belgium's deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet told an EU rail-sector summit on Monday that the "transport of the future" needs quickly to level up female hires across its workforce.
The Federal Mobility Minister used his opening address at the two-day gathering of peers in Paris to stress that diversity goes hand in hand with durability under a pact agreed by Europe's 24 biggest rail operators.
One in 5 rail staff are women
Although numbers of female employees are rising (up from 14% in 2015), Gilkinet said that just one in five rail employees are currently women. He added that boosting this figure would be part of a set of targets agreed with Belgian operators to implement strategic changes for the sector.
Gilkinet said recruitment at every level, from technical to managerial, was on the right track but called for "a diversity strategy at the SNCB which will go even further in terms of inclusion and mixed hiring".
'Fiscal, social & environmental' target
Praising CEO Sophie Dutordoir for progress under her stewardship, he said the ecological rationale behind driving the "mode of transport which best respects our environment" was also "an ally for our economic and employment needs".
To that end, he urged EU member states to cooperate to operate cross-continental trains "day and night – as easy as taking the plane." He said this meant regulatory changes putting air and rail on equitable footings in "fiscal, social and environmental spheres."