Creating change for women working in male dominated industries: Sonya Byers, CEO of Woman in Transport
Sonya Byers, is a woman on a mission. She is the CEO of Women in Transport, a non-profit that empowers women in the transport industry to maximise their potential.
Sonya is someone who loves what she does. Passion and enthusiasm radiates from her, and if she found a way to bottle it, I would buy it!
Directing her own career path, she has landed exactly where she is meant to be. Not always taking the obvious and easy route to get there, she knew what was important to her and invested in the things that matter most. In both her work and personal life. Sonya has made her own destiny. Proposing herself to be the CEO of Women in Transport, despite the role not there for the taking. Creating her own career path for something she was so truly passionate about.
“I love my job, it gives me purpose and the community is amazing. There is so much work to do, but we’re making a positive difference. If we help even one woman have a safe space to share her experiences, somewhere to help progress her career and give her the visibility to get there. Then we’ve done our job!”
Sonya’s recent achievements include great feedback from initiatives like Advance mentoring programme available to all Women in Transport members. Regardless of level or discipline across transport and infrastructure.
Women in Transport also offers a virtual leadership development programme – Lead. The eight-month programme has seen women participate on holiday, on maternity leave and with babes in arms. Nearly half of the women participating in the Lead programme so far have been promoted.
“It really is quite wonderful to see these incredible women supporting each other and inspiring others. They were already awesome; we’re just helping them shine brighter. My hope is that we continue to break down barriers for women to have equal access to development opportunities and progression.”
As the Women in Transport website tells us, women still remain underrepresented in the transport sector accounting for only 26 per cent of workers. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear that Sonya began her career in transport by chance, rather than by choice.
Having no idea about the vast breadth of careers within transport, Sonya took a job working in a traffic survey team. A short-term plan at the time, whilst looking into other options when she had finished her degree in European Business.
Going on to become a transport planner, Sonya started to enjoy both the variety and great work culture around her. Making her think for the first time that this could be a long-term career option. Even now, Sonya recognises how unique this experience was and that sadly it wasn’t the case for everyone coming into the industry, especially women.
By the age of 27, Sonya was offered a technical directorship role with an offer to double her salary. Despite the temptation, she refused as it lacked that nurturing and learning culture she thrived. Over time she began to witness behaviour she wasn’t comfortable with, and slowly became more aware of the issues women faced when working in male dominated environments. That’s when she came across Women in Transport at an event and signed up.
“I have to say I was a bit intimidated to join my first Women in Transport event, but I needn’t have worried. I was welcomed with open arms and now these women are incredible lifelong friends and I have the privilege of leading it.”
Women in Transport started 18 years ago, and Sonya became a member three years into it starting. Joining the board in 2013 as the Events Chair building her confidence in her ability to keep going.
“I always knew I had the network to fall back on. Even when I faced difficult times. When I was made redundant, people in the network offered help and support. I was so grateful for that. I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I would be ok. And that is because of the Women in Transport network.”
The need to have a positive work culture became even more prominent when she was later diagnosed with a long-term medical condition she never knew she had. Mental and physical health is carried over into her personal life and as parkrun Global Trustee she participates most Saturdays and Sundays. A family affair where she is joined by her husband, brother, Mum, Dad, and 3 year old daughter (who is also known to run 2k!).
With so many hats to wear, I can’t help but admire and wonder how Sonya manages to find the motivation, energy and time to balance so much.
“I haven’t got a magic solution. Women can have it all, but not all at the same time. It’s not easy. parkrun for me is important. It’s important to my own wellbeing. Something for myself as well as doing something with my family, so I make time for it. We will always have a guilt about something and it’s a constant balancing act. But it’s important that the choices we make reflect what’s right for now. Some things are going to drop because of prioritising certain aspects of your life, and that’s ok”.
If you would like to know more about Women in Transport’s Advance mentoring and LEAD programme please visit:
Read more she shares here
Copper Consultancy welcomes Scott McLeod, Account Manager
Working within the Strategic Communications practice, Scott joins Copper from Weber Shandwick, where he worked as a Senior Associate. Scott brings a breadth of knowledge and experience working across traditional, digital and social media platforms. His experience covers a range of global corporate clients including Equinor, Jotun, Offshore Energies UK, and DLA Piper.
Scott’s multi-sectoral experience includes energy, maritime, petrochemicals, technology, professional services, and infrastructure. Bringing with him over seven years of experience in media relations, technical writing, and strategic communications. At Copper, he will join a growing team of skilled communicators, creative content creators; and media relations, digital, and stakeholder engagement specialists.
Having spent most of his career in the north east of Scotland, Scott has witnessed the energy transition first hand. Playing an active role in helping several oil and gas operators and supply chain companies diversify and cement their position in the renewable industry.
Commenting on the appointment, James Hillier, Head of Data Insight and Strategy said: “Scott’s experience and knowledge of the renewable energy industry and technologies makes him an excellent fit for our team. His proven track record of supporting multinational and specialist organisations – across the corporate and industrial sectors – in addressing complex communications challenges will be a real asset to our business.”
You can also find out more about careers at Copper here or visit our LinkedIn page for current vacancies.
A week on from the NATS outage – an aviation industry fighting on four fronts
The UK’s air traffic control system was brought down in a “one in 15 million” event, according to a report published on Wednesday of this week.
The now infamous outage resulted in 1,500 flight cancellations on Monday 28 August alone, which had disastrous knock-on effects as this was, of course, one of the busiest days in aviation: the end of the summer holidays Bank Holiday Monday.
The NATS report also cites Eurocontrol data as showing 5,592 flights operated in UK airspace on 28 August, 2,000 (or 25%) fewer than had been expected. This includes cancelled flights and those which avoided UK airspace.
On Monday, Copper’s Lisa Childs was on BBC Radio Cymru’s breakfast show, Dros Frecwast, discussing what we can learn from the NATS outage through the medium of Welsh.
Lisa, formerly Heathrow Airport’s External Affairs Lead, argued that critical national infrastructure needs investment to remain safe, reliable and efficient. As former Silver Commander for crises at Britain’s biggest airport, she also stated that the aviation industry – which is a complex network of thousands of private companies – needs more coordinated crisis response exercises so that major incidents like this can be avoided, or at least, their impact reduced.
The NATS report into the air traffic control incident was published on Wednesday.
A very narrow and technical report, detailing the root cause of the outage and solution implemented in response.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has slammed the report as “rubbish”, claiming that the findings “downplay the impact on the aviation industry” and said the report was “full of excuses”. Mr O’Leary told the BBC that the disruption will cost Ryanair alone between £15m and £20m in refunds for hotels, food and alternative travel arrangements.
Industry group Airlines UK’s response was slightly more muted, focussing instead on how airlines’ costs could be covered by government or NATS. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “airlines cannot be the insurer of a last resort” and expressed his desire for NATS and government to explore how these costs can be covered under current legislation.
The UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has also announced an independent review.
The CAA are expected to report in a few months’ time. The watchdog said it could take action if NATS had breached “statutory and licensing obligations”.
In short, a mixed response from the aviation industry. This is an industry fighting on four fronts: still bearing the scars of the catastrophic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and absent government support; bracing itself for the challenging economic context on the horizon and what this means for consumer confidence; responding to operational realities and crises; and one which is trying to adapt to the climate crisis and convince its passengers that aviation isn’t the enemy.
On the latter challenge, amongst the NATS chatter snuck a welcome commitment from the Department from Transport to introduce a revenue certainty scheme. This was heralded as a positive step towards developing a UK sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry that could create over 10,000 new jobs by 2030, boost fuel security and play a major role in driving down aviation carbon emissions this decade and beyond.
The aviation industry believes that SAFs are pivotal to deliver its net zero emissions by 2050 target but warns that the opportunity to develop a domestic SAF industry is at risk without decisive action from the Government too. Industry leaders want the UK Government to focus on the rapid design and implementation of the revenue certainty scheme, so it is in place before 2026, to help meet the Jet Zero Strategy commitment of having at least five UK plants under construction by 2025.
To find out more about Copper Consultancy, and how we can support clients in the aviation industry, please contact Senior Account Director Lisa Childs on Lisa.Childs@copperconsultancy.co.uk
Reflections on a year with RSK: Strategy, culture, instinct and empathy make strong partnerships
There are fewer more important decisions to make at work than choosing to partner with another organisation to help take a business to the next phase of its life. Our partnership with RSK has proven to be the right one for Copper. Its worked culturally, strategically and created exciting opportunities.
Its a year since Copper joined RSK Group and Martin McCrink, Managing Partner, reflects on the first 12 months and what we have learned.
What we saw is what we got
When we first met RSK to talk about partnering, we had an instinctive positive gut feeling which was continually backed up by the decent, smart and entrepreneurial people we met. And that feeling has not gone away. We continually looked for clues and RSK did not disappoint.
Alan Ryder’s interview in the FT in January 2023 captures the sentiment and approach behind the business and what you read here rings true internally.
Every commitment and opportunity we discussed in those early meetings has been delivered or is underway. Firstly, Copper’s strategy, culture and identity has only been supported and enhanced by RSK – critical for a people led business. RSK’s approach has been to understand what makes Copper successful and help us build on it.
Secondly, RSK’s strategic idea for Copper matched our own business plan and that commitment remains. We’ve been able to break into new sectors, geographies and accelerated the service offering our clients demand. On our own, this pace of positive change would have been slower, more challenging and involved greater risk.
One example is our newly formed team in Copper. Copper’s pre acquisition brand and creative team has merged with RSK’s creative team to form a new Content & Creative practice at Copper – an expert team of copywriters, editors, branding specialists, designers, animators. This team has its own clients and improves the offer to all Copper clients to help our sector tell a better story to inform, engage and influence audiences.
Copper makes strategic sense for RSK Group too. Bringing communications strategy, stakeholder engagement and consultation expertise into RSK strengthens the group’s best in class in house team. RSK’s approach of bringing together successful businesses creates a client demand orientated offer to the market, a compelling pitch for talent and a thriving culture based on improvement, progress and support.
Net zero won’t happen on its own, we need take people with us
RSK’s breadth stretches across continents, languages, cultures and sectors including energy, transport, sport, economic development and food & drink. One common thread is the commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the net zero transition. We’ve seen from the recent political reaction in the UK about the reality of what the net zero transition means. Ultra low emissions zones dominated a by-election, new renewable projects require changes to the landscape and people will be increasingly be asked to change their habits and behaviours.
Just because reducing emissions needs to happen to safeguard a liveable planet does not mean it will. Nor does it mean it is easy. Without buy in, the transition becomes riskier for clients to deliver. Copper purpose is to change the political, social, media and public context to address this challenge. Being part of RSK means we can take on the most interesting challenges with the support of a Group with heritage and expertise in climate science, energy generation, consenting, water consumption and carbon management, to name just a few specialisms.
An open door for talent and a platform for opportunity
Since joining RSK, we’ve created opportunities to progress people’s careers by making the most of being part of the group. We’ve been able to unlock careers for people and retain talent within RSK Group.
Around 12 months ago, opportunities to work in different specialisms or geographies including the Europe, Middle East, Australia, Africa and South America would not have been serious or tangible. Today, they are part of every day conversation and career planning.
What have we learned?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but pre mortems are useful to share.
Gut instinct is usually right when making partnership decisions, but do not underestimate the intellectual and emotional commitment required to make it a success.
Working with decent people is critical. There is no manual for how to make an acquisition work as they are all bespoke, but honesty and trust is essential – all of which requires smart, empathetic people.
Alignment on strategy has made working with RSK straight forward. Clarity, understanding and agreement reduces day to day wasted time and long term issues. We contribute to RSK where the entire Group is greater than the sum of the parts.
RSK’s respect for Copper’s culture and vice versa has meant that the two organisations have seamlessly got the best out of each other. A clash of cultures would have been time consuming and distracting.
We’ve been able to add a new dimension to RSK and RSK has helped Copper expand our horizons. This creates a partnership ethos. Without this, the relationship would feel one-sided and Copper would have felt like a guest, not a housemate. Our approach at Copper has, and always will be, to throw ourselves into scenarios and maximise their potential and by doing so we’re able to get the most support from a global, expert partner.
Leveraging legal experience in the world of communications
As a recent law graduate, you may be wondering how I ended up in the world of communications. More specifically… why infrastructure?
A totally intentional opportunity as actually, a lot of the planning process is governed by statutory requirements. In fact, throughout projects this is something that Copper must work around. Being able to witness projects going from pre-application stages to approval, allows me to apply the purpose behind planning law. Copper combines two of my interests, the law and sustainability, which is why I found Copper such a perfect fit.
Sustainable impact outside the world of STEM
Copper’s focus on renewable energy is an element that attracted me to the role. Previously, I was led to believe that without a background in STEM, roles that have an impact on sustainability would be limited. However, Copper has happily disproven my initial opinion. A lot of Copper’s work focuses on communicating the importance of green projects to key stakeholders, which is something I am passionate about. For example, working on solar farm projects which when complete, could deliver up to 50 MegaWatts of clean green energy. This all feeds into the wider picture, to contribute to the net zero promises the government has to deliver by 2050. It’s incredibly rewarding to be a tiny piece of the bigger picture.
My journey into Copper
How did I get to Copper? Securing my internship via the Taylor Bennett Foundation (TBF), an organisation that promotes better diversity in the PR industry as a whole. 91% of people in the profession classify themselves as white, meaning people of colour are seriously underrepresented in public relations, but with Copper the were no barriers to entry and the interview process amplified that.
The entire application process was well communicate. Granted my interview in fact felt like a conversation. This style of interview put me at a lot more at ease. With the application process making me more comfortable, allowing me to feel valued as an individual and not ‘just a number’ or ‘just another intern’.
My advice to anyone else applying to Copper for an internship is to vocalise your interests. Making your interests known to your team will allow them to support you in doing work that suits. I have been able to work across practices including Infrastructure and Strategic Communications, learning more from being given the opportunity to do so. Hopefully future interns will be able to gain just as much as I have from my internship!
Copper’s company culture
Copper’s involvement with TBF has translates well into the culture at Copper. Notably all team members have been inclusive, willing to introduce me to new projects and no question has felt too silly to ask. Allowing me to experience a seamless transition into the company, without ever feeling like an outsider.
In fact, now that I have been here for over a month, I am learning that my team come from a diverse range of backgrounds. For example, my colleague Hannah worked at Disney in the theme parks and later, in a digital marketing role for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines before entering the world of corporate communications. Knowing that everyone has a variety of experiences before settling into their career makes me feel at ease, to think that everyone was once in my position.
Overall my experience at Copper has been welcoming, exciting and intellectually stimulating. I am excited for all the new projects I’ll get to work on for the remainder of my internship at Copper!
Interested in finding out more about Copper employee experiences? You can find out about Dylan’s intern experience here.
Copper strengthens infrastructure offer with senior hire
Copper Consultancy, the specialist infrastructure agency, has appointed Lisa Childs to front the firm’s plans to deepen its Welsh presence. Lisa brings a unique outlook with varied experience and a values-led approach to both her leadership and her delivery.
Joining from the National Union of Students (NUS) and previously Heathrow Airport. Lisa has significant experience in public affairs and stakeholder relations.
As Director of NUS Wales, and UK-wide public affairs lead for the union, Lisa has shaped and developed policy in partnership with Welsh Government Ministers. She has also influenced opinion and built coalitions of support with both Members of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay and Members of Parliament in Westminster.
Lisa brings major project experience and a client-side perspective to the growing consultancy. Having led public affairs and stakeholder relations across the UK for the Heathrow Expansion programme, Lisa developed a wealth of experience in strategic, political and crisis communication. She was also Silver Commander for operational airport crisis scenarios, such as drone attacks and weather events.
Director of Energy Infrastructure, Sam Cranston, said:
“Through this blend of experience, Lisa will provide real value and insight at both a strategic and delivery level. Lisa will advise our clients on how best to mitigate stakeholder and political risk, understanding the local context. We’re also excited by Lisa’s leadership experience and know that she will be a valuable asset to internal culture here at Copper.”
Commenting on her appointment, Lisa said:
“It’s an incredibly exciting time for infrastructure, decarbonisation, and energy projects in Wales. We are seeing a confident Welsh Government drive forward an ambitious programme for change, unafraid to make big decisions. I’m looking forward to expanding on Copper’s proven track record on delivery for Welsh projects.
“Copper is a specialist agency with a long-standing commitment to and record of success in supporting clients in delivering decarbonisation initiatives. With ambitious growth plans, significant investment in the team, and the backing of the RSK Group, I am excited to add my skills and experience to the mix.”
By-election bonanza: what we learnt ahead of the general election
With the results from the three by-elections now in, Luca Ingrassia takes a look at what we can learn ahead of an upcoming general election.
As much as the Government will look in the coming days to portray retaining Uxbridge and South Ruislip as a sign of hope for the next general election, any hope is likely to be tempered when set amongst the overall swing away from the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, retaining Uxbridge, even in localised circumstances, will provide a modicum of dignity for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Unlike his predecessor-but-one Boris Johnson, who faced a similarly precarious set of by-elections last summer amidst Partygate, Sunak can still be confident of the support of the majority of his MPs. Furthermore, his approval ratings are significantly higher than those of his party, and he has no obvious challenger. So as poor as the Conservatives’ electoral performance is, he may remain the best hope of preventing even worse.
The Party may look to Uxbridge and South Ruislip as a blueprint. Labour’s failure to take the seat has largely been attributed to widespread local opposition to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposed expansion of the ULEZ program. The Conservative campaign was able to successfully mobilise this by portraying the by-election as a local referendum on ULEZ, and portraying Labour in turn as the party of ULEZ. The Party will also be hoping that floating voters are yet to be fully won over by Keir Starmer’s Labour. A lot can happen once national campaigning begins, when issues such as the economy and NHS take centre stage.
Losing Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome in two formerly safe seats does however demonstrate the Party’s unpopularity. It will also reinforce predictions of electoral doom, with less than 100 Conservatives holding majorities larger than that overturned in Selby. As a result, we may see a further swathe of Conservative MPs announcing they will stand down at the next election rather than face imminent defeat.
For Labour, the result in Selby and Ainsty is nothing short of outstanding. It is their largest ever majority overturned, with a swing just under 24% putting them on track for majority Government. Not only have they won back Red Wall voters, but are now pushing beyond it to supposedly safe Conservative seats.
But Labour cannot afford to be complacent. Their delight at Selby and Ainsty will be offset by disappointment in Uxbridge, where they couldn’t quite get over the line. They also struggled to push back against the Conservative campaign’s successful mobilising of ULEZ as a local wedge issue.
Finally, the Party is still very mindful of how it is perceived. Its number one priority at present seems to be to position itself as being fiscally disciplined. Policies that are popular with Labour membership have been dropped and/or watered down as a result. Critics of the Labour leadership suggest this approach is insufficient to attract new voters and capitalise on the Government’s unpopularity. However, strategists on the ground in Selby and Ainsty found a number of lifelong Conservative voters switching to Labour for the first time. This suggests widespread openness if not enthusiasm for Labour to be given a chance to govern. However, the failure to take Uxbridge and South Ruislip will mean there will continue to be nagging doubts over the leadership and political instincts of Sir Keir Starmer, as the pressure cooker environment of a general election approaches.
As their revival gathers momentum, Somerton and Frome is the fourth seat they have gained from the Conservatives this Parliament. This will fuel their hopes of picking up potentially dozens of Conservative seats across the South. Their hopes of doing so will be boosted by the widespread use of tactical voting which was evident across all three by-elections, suggesting prominent anti-Conservative sentiment and electoral savviness in the electorate. And should the Conservatives be able to blunt Labour gains and force a hung parliament, the Liberal Democrats may well find themselves with an opportunity not just to expand their political footprint, but to head back into power.
As Westminster slowly ramps up for the next general election, national politics continues to prove as volatile as ever. Copper will continue to provide intelligence and insight to support clients in navigating this turbulent landscape and adapting to change.
Copper Consultancy has appointed Luca Ingrassia to strengthen its economic development offer and provide additional support for the firm’s growing work in decarbonisation projects across the country.
Joining from Connect Public Affairs, Luca brings significant experience in advancing campaigns for a number of prominent organisations in the net zero space. This includes Toyota, Vaillant and UNISON. Luca also acted as Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen.
As Copper looks to sustain its recent growth in net zero, Luca will provide advantages for clients across the economic development sector in his role as account manager.
Director of Economic Development at Copper, Ronan Cloud, said: “I am delighted to welcome Luca to Copper. His experience in renewable energy and the wider net zero landscape will add significant value to Copper’s offer. His appointment will bolster our growing team and provide additional support as we service a growing client base”.
Luca’s experience covers a range of policy areas, including energy, skills, technology and transport. At Copper, he will be supporting on the strategic direction of major client accounts and provide political insight.
Commenting on his appointment, Luca said: “I am incredibly excited to be joining Copper at such an important time for the firm, with RSK Group’s backing fuelling ambitious plans for growth to meet the pressing demands of the net zero transition.
“I look forward to providing insight, expertise and advantage as the company helps clients navigate today’s challenging political landscape”.
To find out more about Copper Consultancy’s strategic communications offer, visit the website.
Copper Consultancy is proud to have supported National Highways as it has secured planning consent for the A303 Stonehenge project.
As one of the UK’s most prestigious and important infrastructure projects in the UK, the proposal is now a significant step closer, to reconnecting the landscape at Stonehenge, currently severed by the road. The project will also reduce major congestion created by a single carriageway and alleviate rat running through nearby villages.
Copper has been working with National Highways since 2016
Providing communications, engagement and consultation advice and delivery. Our work focuses on establishing a clear and consistent narrative for the project. This engaging story enables us to undertake industry leading engagement programmes with the widest range of stakeholders in the region, across the UK and internationally.
Martin McCrink, Managing Partner, Copper said:
“The A303 Stonehenge tunnel has been part of life at Copper for many years. Achieving this consent is an important milestone.
“The project required incredible leadership from so many organisations to get to this point. The compelling narrative and need behind the project has been key to that, and we are proud to have played our part. It is a prestigious project and we’ve been able to work with some amazingly talented people over the years.”
The project has attracted unprecedented interest from a range of communities in the UK and international organisations with specialist interests. The Secretary of State said in the consent letter that he was “satisfied there is a clear need” for the new tunnel and the project’s “harm on spatial, visual relations and settings is less than substantial and should be weighed against the public benefits”.
Copper supports clients
This includes National Highways, National Grid, Grosvenor, ScottishPower, RWE, Vattenfall, Downing, Bristol Airport and HS2. Our support focuses on developing the country’s much needed infrastructure. Our approach is to help clients secure the highest quality consent in the shortest possible time. This encompasses the greatest level of public, stakeholder and political support, all informed with data led strategies.