• CTA launches Women in Community Transport UK Network to coincide with International Women’s Day 2024

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    • CTA launches Women in Community Transport UK Network to coincide with International Women’s Day 2024

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    Community Transport Association has launched the Women in Community Transport UK Network, a nationwide group dedicated to addressing pivotal issues concerning women in the transport sector.

    The UK and established London working group will actively contribute to the Women in Bus and Coach (WiBC) initiative and work together to challenge and eliminate barriers faced by women on a broader scale.

    CTA Chief Executive, Victoria Armstrong opened the event with comparisons between the transport and voluntary sector and the women who facilitate ‘care’ industries. She said: “The CT sector is centred around this idea of care and is often seen as ‘women’s work’ and I think those sort of virtues are underplayed. I think more than ever we should be utilising them as a foundation to build on and strengthen our position in the sector.”

    More than 50 delegates came together from the sector to discuss strategies for empowerment, identify key issues and foster collaboration for positive change within the industry.

    Guest speaker, Kathleen Lyons, CEO at Westway CT, shared her passion for CT and talked about how women played a central part in her career. She said: “I just fell in love with it. What we do and the people that we work with. I think they’re a very diverse and interesting bunch and that makes our work rewarding and stimulating.

    “I got into CT because of women passengers and their need for appropriate transport and now we’re here talking about how we can improve the make-up of our services and think about the needs of those delivering CT too.”

    Attendees were invited to make a pledge to empower women in community transport. Pledges will be collated and used to form a working document for WiCT group meetings throughout the year.

    Following a hugely successful 26-year career in CT, Development Manager at Badenoch & Strathspey Community ConnXions, Maggie Lawson shared her experience of working in a rural community.

    She said: “Starting out we were a volunteer car scheme in a huge rural area, all volunteering our time and mainly it was all women. Pre-covid we had 160 volunteer drivers. We were one big family, no such thing as anyone was the boss, just all working together as community support. Respect was always a thing that I made sure of, the volunteers felt valued and were kept informed.”

    Suzy Downes, Business Manager at CT Sussex charted her driving career and the prejudice she faced starting out as a young driver. She said: “The interview was interesting. Questions like ‘was I planning on starting a family soon’ and being told I was ‘lucky I was driving the modern vehicles as I wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the manual ones.’

    “I passed the test first time. I loved the feeling of being a woman in a man’s world, passengers taking a double take as I climbed into the cab, some people even questioned me, was I qualified or old enough to be driving a bus like this? I was earning good money and I drove buses for 9 years before joining the CT sector later on.”

    Kim Ward, CEO of Lothian Community Transport Services Ltd highlighted the need for more diversity across the sector. She said: “When I did my CPC test I was asked why I had decided to become a driver. I do wonder, does that person ask all the men who take the test the same question? I have noticed people will come into our office and assume that I am the administrator. It doesn’t affect me personally but what does it say on our thoughts on what management looks like in CT at an operational level when that assumption is regularly made?”

    WiBC directors, Laurence Jenkins and Tom Cunningham addressed the essential role of men and male allyship in the wider equality conversation and brought a wealth of impactful ideas and tools for CT sector organisations to bring about positive change. To make your pledge to empower and inspire women in Community Transport, click this link and join our campaign for positive change.

    More information about WiCT will be released in the coming weeks.

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