Vital to the company’s success, career opportunities for women in NS operations continue to expand
Terry Evans, vice president transportation at Norfolk Southern, is convinced that attracting and retaining women in operations are keys to the railroad’s success.
“In order for this company to continue to be successful, we need to attract and retain a large number of good people. I truly believe that unless you include in that number a large number of women, especially in operations, we cannot be successful,” Evans said. His remarks culminated a leadership retreat staged by the employee resource group WiNS, an NS women’s network, at the company’s Goode Building in Atlanta.
Evans drew parallels between women in operations and challenges he faced as a black transportation management trainee early in his career.
“I remember one night talking with another black supervisor about our future opportunities, and we agreed that if we worked even harder, we could be road trainmasters one day. That was the highest of our expectations, and that was a very high reach for us to imagine, much less to say it out loud.”
Evans went on to become Norfolk Southern’s first black assistant division superintendent, assistant general manager, general manager, and operating vice president, and the first black operating department head of a major railroad in America.
“Our women do not have to prove anything. They have already demonstrated how motivated, dynamic, and important they can be.”
- Terry Evans, vice president transportation
“I hope my journey will serve as an example of what’s possible for all the women in operations and all the women at NS,” Evans said.
“Our women do not have to prove anything,” he said. “They have already demonstrated how motivated, dynamic, and important they can be.” He pointed out that women now are NS conductors, engineers, chief dispatchers, division office managers, trainmasters, road foremen of engines, assistant superintendents in train movement offices, assistant terminal superintendents, and terminal superintendents.
“Most of these I have had the honor of promoting to these positions myself. We have a very strong lineup of talented women coming up through the ranks. The first female division superintendent, general manager, AVP engineering, and even operating vice president is already among our ranks. She is working hard, she is smart, she is focused, and she is a winner.
“I do not know yet which one it is right now, but I can tell you this: There are more and more to select from every day,” Evans said.
“We in transportation have to do a better job of retaining them and helping them to see the vision, to recognize the opportunities and responsibility of being not average, but excellent,” he said. “It’s not an easy lifestyle, especially at the start of their careers,” but the company is adapting to accommodate work-life balance, Evans said. “We’re at a place in transportation now where we make concessions for our people and their families. We’re more tolerant than we were 20 years ago.”
Evans said, “I’m proud of the progress we’re making, but clearly, we have work to do as a company.” While women make up 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, he said females comprise 4.6 percent of NS transportation, the largest department in the company. “I would love to have 50 percent women in transportation. I’d be happy with 40 percent. I’d smile at 30; but I would take 20 right now. Still, I am proud of our progress with women in operations. We have more work to do, that’s for sure, but I have no doubt we will get there.”
Evans challenged employees: “Do not be afraid of being the first, or the best.”
Asked to identify the keys to his career success, Evans replied: “Hard work, learning my craft, and, most of all, caring about people. It’s all about the team. It’s never about the individual. I invest in my people. I invest my time in my people. I know whose wife is suffering from something and whose children are sick, and they know I know.”
Most important question he asks during a job interview: “Why are you here? And the second part to that – What are you willing to do to be successful?”