Tom Flannery – a male agent of change

Tom is Practice Manager – Rolling Stock Technical Services at Atkins.

tom flannery atkins everywoman

Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards 2023. The Londoner Hotel Wednesday 28th June 2023. Photography by Steve Dunlop

At the recent Everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards, Tom won the Male Agent of Change prize, awarded to a man for his active commitment to advancing the progress of women working in transport and logistics. We grabbed Tom for a chat about his work.

What made you start wanting to make changes at Atkins?

I learnt that just being ‘non-sexist’ or ‘non-racist’ isn’t enough after a conversation in 2020 with a friend from the trans community about the power of allies. I recognised that passive allyship wasn’t enough, and I wanted to take more active steps in driving change. Engineering, transportation and rail are still quite male dominated industries and I realised that unless the straight, white men start fighting for change it’s never going to happen.

How did you find this initially, talking to your managers and the higher-ups and getting people to do something rather than just talk about it?

The first major step on my EDI journey was joining Atkins’ ethnic minority network, Embrace. Initially, I was worried about being perceived as tokenistic or performative, but I was warmly welcomed, and I began learning immediately. I have since joined other internal staff networks and helped establish and run the RIA Women in Rail EDI Charter, which has over 200 signatories.

I’m really pleased to say that I’ve never had an issue with talking to managers about changes. Atkins has created a supportive environment that genuinely values and prioritises EDI at all levels. We have 12 staff networks (and counting) and knowing that each has a senior leader sponsor gives me confidence that important issues are raised to an appropriate level and receive the attention they deserve.

What’s the biggest change you can see since you’ve been doing what you’re doing?

In my three years of involvement in EDI at Atkins, I have seen numerous changes aimed at supporting inclusivity. We are constantly improving our practices in recruitment, talent identification and progression to remove bias and ensure equal opportunities for all such as removing bias language from job descriptions and advocating senior sponsorship of individuals from under-represented groups.

This year we implemented leading-edge parental leave packages, as well as training materials to facilitate a smooth transition back to work. Our ParentNet staff network offers a buddy system for experienced working parents to support newer parents. We are also partnering with groups assisting individuals returning to work after significant career breaks as full-time parents. I personally feel I and my family benefitted so much from the four weeks paid paternity that we now offer to bond with my son as well as support my wife in her post-caesarean recovery.

What impact have you seen on the children of people within the company?

Like many places I feel that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our adoption of flexible and hybrid working arrangements, benefitting our parent employees and their children. People are now able to take advantage of flexible schedules to spend more quality time with their children.

Personally, I adjusted my working hours slightly to finish earlier each day not only to be able to do the nursery pick up but to get quality time with my family – if I need to work up extra hours I can do this when everyone is safely tucked up in bed. The best part is that my managers have been fully supportive of this arrangement, and I make a point of openly discussing it to encourage others to explore similar options.

What do you think is the most important thing to do moving forward?

While there are still many important steps to take, a key focus for me is continuing to promote flexibility in the workplace. I work with people who choose to work during term time only, allowing them to spend school holidays with their children.

Additionally, there are individuals who job share, enabling them to progress into management positions while working reduced weeks. These initiatives not only support parents but also create opportunities for women returning to the workforce after maternity leave which I want to see more of. By embracing such measures, we can build more diverse teams that benefit from a wider range of perspectives and experiences.

Read more:

Dads as active caregivers: shifting parenting roles

The companies honoured for family-friendly policies

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