Strangely, there’s one statistic that I vividly remember from my Women’s Studies class at university. I mean, obviously that’s not the only thing I remember, that would’ve been a pretty tremendous waste of money wouldn’t it?! But, for some reason it stuck with me that, at that time, only 4% of the nation’s taxi drivers were women. Having led a pretty charmed life where I had rarely ever been the minority somewhere (except for that time on work experience where I found myself a tiny teenage girls amongst a group of male stage hands with pin ups and lingerie pictures plastered all over the staff room – oh if I’d have been a feminist back then!), I found myself confronted with the issue of gender inequality at work, something which I’d never before considered.
Of course taxiing isn’t the only career where women are vastly under-represented; we unfortunately still live in a society where there are stereotypically male and female jobs. Although these divides are slowly and gradually being eroded with many companies making a concentrated effort to be as fully-representative and diverse as possible, the women who choose to go it alone and make themselves a minority within a male-dominated field are often likely to face sexist commentary regarding their choices. I’ve recently been reading Do It Like A Woman by Caroline Criado-Perez and it astounds me that women are still having to forge their way into careers which just simply did not even consider females until they arrived as an unexpected minority on their doorstep. Further, projects such as Everyday Sexism are highlighting the systemic discrimination that occurs in workplaces which simply don’t cater sufficiently for female employees.
This pervasive culture of excluding women from male-dominated careers (and sometimes vice versa) often means that girls are unlikely to select a career that they are told is ‘a job for boys’. Where taxiing is concerned, add this to the age old trope that women are supposedly terrible drivers and it’s no wonder that women aren’t desperate to learn The Knowledge and get themselves a cab. Well, now there’s a project which is hoping to highlight the women who went ahead and became taxi drivers anyway, despite being the minority.
Female Taxi Drivers is a project which tells the stories of the 2.2% of female taxi drivers in London and how they fare (I know, awful pun, sorry!) as the minority in a male-dominated field. Honestly, on discovering this project, I simply expected horror stories of how these women are met with sexual comments and had the usual concerns of this perhaps being a dangerous pursuit for a woman. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely some of that as one of the drivers, Victoria, describes being asked up to a hotel or being asked to join her passenger in the back for some ‘extra money’. However, what is also clear from these brilliant women is that they’re dedicated to a job which gives them flexible hours to work around their families, which brings them into the taxi driver family, and allows them the freedom of being self-employed.
These stories are so valuable because they pave the way for allowing other women to see that it is possible to enter a male-dominated field and be successful, and that it’s not always the stuff of sexist nightmares. As Shelley, one of the project participants points out, “I had someone tell me the other day that his daughter was looking to become a cab driver and whether I thought that was dangerous. The only thing I was able to say was ‘Let her – she’s going to have a ball and experience something new every day. She will always come home after work with the most fascinating stories!'” It’s really refreshing to hear such positive accounts from these fascinating women who have spent years learning their trade and who are eroding perceptions of what it means to be a woman in traditionally male world. I would love for this type of project to be carried out across all sorts of occupations so that we can continue to break down the barriers that prevent women from pursuing certain careers.
Are you a female taxi driver or know somebody who is? The Female Taxi Drivers project is looking for more women to share their stories! Get in touch now: firstname.lastname@example.org
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