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Driving the uptake of female taxi drivers: Flexibility and earning power


Image credits: FREENOW

Historically, the taxi industry has been a male-dominated sector, with outdated perceptions that the industry is unsuitable for women. The Government’s Department for Transport has revealed a mere 3% of taxi drivers are female. This glaring gender gap highlights a systemic issue that has been a problem for decades.


The benefits for women in the taxi industry


Nowadays, it's becoming increasingly evident that the industry has huge potential for female drivers. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, more than half (52%) of women say a lack of flexibility at work has pushed them to leave or consider leaving a job. The taxi sector, by contrast, offers a lot of flexibility, including the ability for drivers to plan their work around family life and be their own boss. 

Unlike the typical 9-5 working day, taxi drivers can choose their working hours, enabling a better work-life balance. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for working parents, allowing them to adjust their working hours around family commitments. Research from Official of National Statistics found that the majority (84%) of lone-parent families in the UK were headed by a single mother. As such, this flexibility is especially important for women, enabling them to earn income on their terms, and to their own timetable.


According to Government data, the transport sector suffers from poor workforce diversity, particularly gender equality. Therefore, attracting more women into the taxi industry would drive the much-needed change in the sector. 

 

This shift is about inclusivity but is also a strategic response to meet market demands. By breaking gender stereotypes in the taxi sector, a more diverse workforce can better reflect the client base, providing a better service to passengers by creating a more inclusive environment for drivers and passengers.


Overcoming barriers: The Knowledge and the high cost of vehicles


One significant barrier that prevents many from entering the industry is the Knowledge of London test. This test can take up to 3-4 years to complete and cost up to £10,000. This rigorous test requires drivers to memorise 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, learn 320 routes, and complete twelve interviews in which they can be tested on any of the above. 


The test requires dedication, time, and financial investment, which often deters prospective drivers. Prospective drivers also face other challenges, such as the high cost of renting or purchasing a vehicle. 


This is a challenge for women who may already face pay disparities. According to the Office for National Statistics, women earn 7.7% less than men on average. Moreover, the exam's time-consuming nature poses a unique challenge for working mothers who are already battling time constraints. As a result, it is no surprise that according to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, 70% of drivers do not complete the Knowledge test to become black cab drivers due to the cost and time commitment.


To overcome some of these challenges and ease pressures, it’s crucial to ensure that measures are put in place to support women in joining the taxi trade. Last  November, FREENOW launched the PHV subsidy allowing minicab drivers to apply for funding to complete the Knowledge of London and transition to becoming black cabbies, increasing their earning potential. The subsidy will fund 100% of the application cost, tuition fee, exams, and licensing, amounting to over two thousand pounds per driver over a minimum period of two years. 

This is a significant milestone for drivers, particularly for women as findings from Standard Life's Retirement Voice 2022 report reveal that the cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately impacting women, with 31% reporting financial difficulties compared to 19% of men.


Moving forward together


Given the opportunities, it's imperative to double efforts in actively recruiting, training, and mentoring female taxi drivers. FREENOW has been promoting female taxi drivers as role models for women looking at career options or considering a career change. However, further change requires relevant authorities to drive this change to reach a gender balance within the taxi driver community. It is not just about representation; it's about meeting customers' evolving needs and fostering a more inclusive industry.


In conclusion, the taxi industry offers great benefits as a career path for women at the beginning of their careers or for those looking for a career change. By providing additional support and contributing to reducing the barriers to entry into the trade or the often prohibitive cost of taxis, the sector can create even more opportunities and advantages by creating an empowering, more diverse, inclusive, and rewarding environment for all drivers.


Article by: Nour Rasamny, Head of Operations at FREENOW UK

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