Meet the railway muses: Female staff from Northern trade trains for the gallery wall in new ‘Women in Uniform’ exhibition

A photography exhibition is celebrating women that wear a uniform, including seven members of staff from Northern.  

Launched on International Women’s Day on March 8, the exhibition at the Haworth Gallery in Accrington showcases the stories and portraits of women who work in uniformed services, highlighting their accomplishments and their contributions to society. The women featured come from a range of backgrounds.

Funded by Arts Council England, Shy Burhan spent a year interviewing and photographing women in her Shipley home studio. Her unique photographic style captures the strength and resilience of these women in a way that is both powerful and intimate.

Shy said: “I have felt really privileged to photograph women of colour from multiple sectors and backgrounds for my ‘Women in Uniform’ project. This of course includes the wonderful women from Northern, including the UK’s first Pakistani, Muslim female train driver. Northern clearly stands out in supporting its workforce to be more inclusive and diverse and i’m delighted to feature them in my exhibition.”

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer at Northern said: “I am so proud that Shy chose some of my fellow colleagues to be a part of this fantastic exhibition. At Northern, we know that women play a vital role in the success of our industry, and we are committed to continuing to support and empower women in rail.”

Here are the seven Northern women included in the exhibition which runs until 14 May 2023.

Tahira Bibi 

The UK’s first female train driver of British-Pakistani and Muslim heritage. Tahira feels that if someone sees her who looks like her, talks like her, and sees her performing her role, then it’ll make them feel like they can do it too.

Yasmin Khan

A conductor at Northern, Yasmin volunteers with the company’s initiatives in the local community.

Shy says the whistle she is holding “is a poignant reminder of how she had to fight, and is still fighting, to overcome cultural barriers within her community to be heard.”

Sonia Johar 

Sonia is now an onboard systems service improvement manager but previously worked for Northern as a PA and project support. She said that both roles have given me the opportunity to explore and learn about an industry which was once deemed as male-dominated and male-orientated.

She said: “It feels great to be part of an exhibition aimed at highlighting women in different industries and showcasing to others across the country what the art of the possible is. There are no limits or barriers if you’re willing to be brave and take the first step.”

Aishah Rahman 

The senior revenue analysis manager in the Commercial Development team at Northern, Aishah said: “I hope that my part in this exhibition inspires people to break down barriers to live the life they want to, and not the life that is expected of them.”

Martine Manga

Martine is five months into her role as possession delivery manager and says she loves making a difference to customers.

She said: “I’m black of African descent, in my 50s and I have lost hope in the past of securing my dream job. But, Northern as an industry went past my race, my age and gender, and considered my passion of making a difference as  great attribute for me to break the glass ceiling.”

Rizwana Begum

Working in IS as a Technical Support Analyst & on Roll-out Projects I feel privileged to be part of a super supportive, diverse & well-connected team.

I really feel that the exhibition is a celebration and a fabulous way of showcasing Northern’s diversity and in my taking part will encourage and inspire others, that there really is no barrier to what you can achieve should you wish to do so.

Also featured in the exhibition is Amrit Sandhu.