"It’s an opportunity to honour the struggles and celebrate successes."
Natasha Grice, Executive Director at Avanti West Coast, on Black History Month, inspirations and inclusion.
12 October, 2021
What does Black History Month mean to you?
As a person of colour, Black History Month is incredibly important to me. It’s an opportunity to honour the struggles and celebrate successes of those who have paved the way for myself and so many others to have greater opportunities in life. There is still so much more to do and focusing minds for a month on an important issue can only lead to even greater societal change in the future for my children and generations to come.
We’ve been celebrating stories in the industry with our people about those very individuals who have been role models for me and many others, including Barrington Young (the first Black rail inspector in the North-West) and Trudy Aarons (one of the first black women in Britain to be a train driver). This work led by our race and ethnicity network is really important as it means their experiences are never forgotten.
Who has inspired you in your career?
For many reasons Michelle Obama is a big influence - obviously from a distance! Firstly, she is a role model for so many in the world and I feel inspired by what she has achieved not only professionally, but personally too. She stood out to me as a strong black woman, a First Lady, with a career of her own and a mother, which is just incredible!
"The expression 'you can’t be what you can’t see' really resonated with me."
Closer to home I am inspired by our colleagues internally who have shared with me how it feels to see a mixed-race woman on an Exec team in the rail industry. The expression “you can’t be what you can’t see” really resonated with me. I feel passionate that regardless of race or gender, with the right skills, passion to succeed, development and mentoring… anything is possible.
What one thing would you like to see happen for the rail industry to become even more inclusive?
Sharing of skillsets between all stakeholders in the rail industry. The power in diversity of thoughts across different businesses could be really exciting and help the industry grow, retain and attract future talent.
There is so much opportunity working on the railway. I have been a part of it for 20 years in March next year and it really is a railway family culture. There are so many different roles to try and with the right attitude, you can have a rewarding career here.
And I know you said one thing, but we should celebrate the diversity we do have in rail today more outside of our industry… you can’t be what you can’t see!
Natasha Grice is Executive Director, Customer Experience, at Avanti West Coast