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How diverse is HS2?


High-speed railway project HS2 has released its EDI Annual Report 2019/20, in which it details its equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work, including the impact of that work across its workforce, supply chain, design and operations, and communities.

HS2’s workforce consists of 1,609 core staff and 1,274 employees. Core staff include HS2 Ltd employees (full time and fixed-term contracts, graduates and apprentices) and other workers with a workforce plan role number, such as interim, agency workers, delivery partner, engineering delivery partner and secondees. HS2 Ltd employees are full time, fixed-term contract workers, apprentices and graduates only.

The report looks, in the main, at the 1,609 core workers, and so includes agency workers, interns and those on secondment from suppliers and contractors.


36% of HS2’s core workers are women, as against an infrastructure sector standard of 21%. Women represent 31% of the senior leadership team, 33% of the executive team, 29% of director roles and 24% of head of function roles.

In the individual directorates, the highest proportion of women can be found in human resources and the chief executive’s office (both 61%), whereas only 27% of the infrastructure directorate is female – still higher than the sector average.

Safety & assurance and strategic stakeholder engagement are both split at more or less 50/50.

36% of HS2’s core workers are women, compared with an infrastructure sector figure of 21%.

Gender pay gap

As required by law, HS2 published details of its gender pay gap. However, as this identifies how much more men, in total, are paid than women, and as HS2 employs more men than women overall, the figures are just about meaningless. More important would be a comparison of how much men and women are paid for doing precisely the same work. But that information isn’t published.

Instead, HS2 simply states: “Like many construction sector organisations, including those in our supply chain, we currently have more senior men than women. This results in a gender pay gap that is above the national average but broadly in line with the construction sector.”  Which is no surprise – HS2 employs proportionately more women than the national average, so its gender pay gap is less than the national average.

HS2 says that it will work to develop an ethnicity pay gap analysis, but that will be equally meaningless – not HS2’s doing, it’s an ill-though-through government ‘make work’ directive.


Nearly one in five (19%) of HS2’s staff identified as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME). That compares with the UK working-age population as a whole, which is 12.1% BAME.

Thus, the BAME representation is higher than the national average both overall and in seven of HS2’s eight individual directorates. The odd one out is the chief executive’s office which, at 11%, is still close to the national average (and is mostly female – see above).

19% of HS2’s staff identified as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME), compared to 12.1% for the working-age population.


2% of core staff meet the Equality Act’s definition of declared disability. However, this is a difficult number to assess as many people don’t declare ‘hidden’ disabilities.  In HS2’s case, 7% of records for disability are ‘prefer not to say’ or ‘not provided’.

As well as declared disability status, the presence of disabled staff can be measured by the number of moderate to substantial adjustments made to assist core staff. This year, the number of people receiving these adjustments has increased by 1% to 18%. This additional accounts for the fact that people might be uncomfortable sharing specific information about impairments or long-term illnesses they might have.

HS2 has worked closely with its supplier Clear Talents to improve its adjustments management system, which now records requests for equipment and support related to health and safety, wellbeing, mental wellbeing and disability.

Since implementing these improvements, 680 adjustment requests have been fulfilled and the system now has about 1,860 active users.


The bulk of HS2’s core workforce is between 30 and 39 (31%), 40 and 49 (28%) and 50 and 59 (20%), or 79% between 30 and 59.  Again, no surprises there.

What was slightly surprising is that only 8% is 29 or under.

Only 8% of HS2’s core workforce is under 29.


Another area in which people get coy about revealing too much is religion. While 37% claim to be Christian, 16% identify as being non-Christian and 27% as atheist, secular or agnostic.

Of the other major world religions, that leaves Islam at a surprisingly low 4%, Sikhism and Hinduism at 3% each, and Judaism and Buddhism hovering around 1%. How many adherents of these religions are hidden in the ‘non-Christian’ category is unknown.

HS2 roadshow at Birmingham Pride.

Sexual orientation

3% of HS2’s staff identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT+). However, 21% ‘prefer not to say’ or their preferences are ‘not provided’. So the actual figure is hard to estimate.

HS2’s LGBT+ network, Onboard, has helped to update policies and documents to make HS2 more inclusive, resulting in a more comprehensive trans-inclusion policy and gender-neutral toilets.


23 apprentices have been recruited. Of this admittedly small number, 44% are from BAME backgrounds, 50% are female, 91% are 29 or under and 39% are receiving moderate or substantial disability adjustments.

HS2 apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail.

To encourage the future generation, HS2 delivers workshops in primary and secondary schools to promote interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and careers, prioritising schools that score highly on measures of diversity and disadvantage, so as to engage with young people in groups that are currently under-represented in the transport infrastructure sector.

Mark Lomas, HS2.

In 2018/19, HS2’s volunteer education ambassadors visited 76 schools and reached more than 4,000 students who, by watching video case studies and reading stories embedded in the resources, were able to discover the diversity of roles and people who work on HS2.

Mark Lomas, HS2’s head of equality diversity and inclusion, said: “HS2 continues to strive to be an exemplar of equality, diversity and inclusion practice.

“We are proud of our award winning EDI approach and the diversity of our workforce, but acknowledge there is still more we can do.”


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