‘I don’t class myself as a female bus driver, I’m just a bus driver’

Dublin Bus took on its first woman driver in 1980 but females still only account for 4 per cent of all drivers

With Dublin Bus looking to increase its percentage of women drivers, Irish Times journalist Niamh Towey looked at if the life of a Dublin Bus driver was for her. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

“I don’t class myself as a female bus driver, I’m just a bus driver,” says Tina Ahern, who has worked as a driver for Dublin Bus for the past twenty years.

“When I came into it at first I thought it was going to be an issue [being a woman driver] because it’s such a male dominated profession but it’s not at all. I’m such great friends with all of the male drivers. Some of the older drivers see me as a daughter. I’ve never come across any sexism like that.’’

She was speaking on Tuesday as Dublin Bus launched a campaign to recruit more women drivers.

The company recruited its first female driver in 1980 but nearly four decades later just 4 per cent of its drivers are women and Dublin Bus wants to address this.

It will hold a series of recruitment open days at its training centre in Phibsboro, Dublin, during August, September and October where women with a full driving licence can have a go at test driving a bus alongside a professional driving instructor to see if they might like the job.

Here they will also have the opportunity to meet current female drivers and inspectors who can share their experiences of working with the company.

Although the recruitment campaign is open to both female and male applicants the bus company is placing particular focus on attracting more women drivers.

Vivienne Kavanagh of Dublin Bus said the company has female leaders throughout the organisation, from engineering to operations as well as human resources and finance. But it hasn’t enough women drivers.

Naoise O Molloy (5) from Trim, Co Meath, with Dublin Bus driver Suzanne Armstrong at the launch of the new recruitment campaign. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.
Naoise O Molloy (5) from Trim, Co Meath, with Dublin Bus driver Suzanne Armstrong at the launch of the new recruitment campaign. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

“Any woman who is interested should join us at one of our open days and just give it a spin - try it, you might love it,” she said.

“We’re a big family and we need more women in it,” she added.

The driver role offers a salary starting at €632.05 per week before tax, increasing to €859.62. It also offers training and mentoring, paid maternity leave, access to a gym, a GP scheme and an education support scheme for going back to third level study, she said.

Irish motor racing legend Rosemary Smith who is endorsing the new recruitment campaign said she never allowed her gender to limit her in what she want to achieve.

“From being the only woman driver to win the Tulip Rally outright in a Hillman Imp in the 1970s to being the oldest woman to drive a Formula 1 car a few years ago when I was 79, I’ve always done things which many thought only men could do.

Mya Lynn (8) from Lucan dressed in a Dublin Bus uniform with motor racing legend Rosemary Smith at the launch of the Dublin Bus female recruitment drive. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Mya Lynn (8) from Lucan dressed in a Dublin Bus uniform with motor racing legend Rosemary Smith at the launch of the Dublin Bus female recruitment drive. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

“I think it’s fantastic Dublin Bus is looking to recruit new female drivers. I encourage every woman, whatever your age, who has ever thought about doing it to register for an open day and give it a spin,” she said.

Tina Ahern praises Dublin Bus for their driver training programme to get newcomers on the road. “When they let you behind the steering wheel you’re after having six weeks training in the training centre. The training is amazing. They’ll get your [BUS]licence and then you go out on the routes before they let you go out with passengers. By then so you’re so confident, there’s no problem.’’

To be eligible to attend any of the open days applicants must hold a valid car licence and register at dublinbus.ie.

The open days will be on August 24th (which is already booked out). September 7th and 21st and on October 5th and 19th