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ROLE MODELS AND MENTORS: TfL run Knowledge workshop brings women in the taxi industry together

A Women’s Workshop for female cabbies and those thinking about a career as a cabbie was held on 19 January. The workshop was organised by regulators Transport for London (TfL) and held at Baker Street.

Sat on tables were a mixture of Knowledge of London (KOL) students, brand new female cabbies and those who’ve been holding a badge for many years.

Female industry representatives included Suzanne Sullivan (LTDA), Karen Proctor (UCG), Louise Osborne (Unite), Katie Chennells (Knowledge of London Manager TfL), who led the workshop, Jane Ayers (Knowledge examiner).

Suzanne Sullivan, Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), said in TAXI Newspaper: “We were given topics to discuss amongst our groups and then we had a joint discussion about our findings. It was really interesting talking through the positives and negatives of being a taxi driver, as a woman. The negatives were spoken about at length, with a view to finding a solution and turning them into positives, where possible. Having so many ladies in a room, all sharing their experiences, helped all of us so much. Regardless of our respective positions in the room, we all learned a lot.

“One of the concerns of the ladies, was doing the Knowledge on a moped for security reasons. Some explained that they cover most of the roads in their cars. I remember doing the same on a Sunday, when the roads are quieter. I would do most of my runs on the moped during the day, when I felt safe. I would then take my bicycle in my car at the weekend and cycle quarter mile areas. Another area of concern was fitting in studying around childcare. Some of the ladies, who have to do the school run, said they found a way of sharing these duties with other mums, as they didn’t have family that lived nearby. Once again, I did this when I could. It was like having saved favours, so when I had time, I could help other mums back.

“I got my badge over 10 years ago. I remember my induction like it was yesterday. I was terrified. I walked into a room full of men, as the only woman. We all looked as scared as each other and sat silently waiting for the session to start. In walked this elegant lady. She had a pencil skirt on, high heels, perfectly painted nails and was immaculately presented. She introduced herself, and I was gobsmacked to hear she was a cab driver, and had been driving for seven years. Her name was Jane Ayers, the same lady involved in this current workshop and still a Knowledge examiner.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if she can do it, then so can I.’ I had stereotyped her and that was a mistake, however having her in my first meeting is one hundred per cent what made me start the Knowledge.”

Sullivan went on to explain the importance of female role models and mentors within the taxi industry to encourage more women to take on the challenge of the Knowledge of London.

Sullivan added: “Attending the Women’s Workshop, really took me back and made me realise the importance of having a mentor, especially in a trade where only 2% of drivers are currently female. I was lucky that in my first experience of the process, I met a dynamic and inspiring female role model, but I am sure many didn’t have this. If we had workshops like this on a regular basis, I feel confident that we would have more ladies on the Knowledge and in turn more female cabbies!

“Katie Chennells, is also a leading example for women in the trade. She can share her first-hand experience of doing the Knowledge, but as she then went on to work for TFL, she has experience from both sides of the coin."

There are currently just over 18,400 licensed taxi drivers in the capital, which is a number that continues to drop on a weekly basis and at an alarming rate. A minority of drivers have long accused female applicants of getting an ‘easier ride’ on the KOL which was dismissed by the LTDA rep.

Sullivan said: “I have been accused of getting an easier time on the Knowledge, because I was a woman. Any lady on the Knowledge will know this has never been the case. If anything, we had more obstacles to overcome, and at no point was I given an easy ride. If anything, I had to work harder. But I had a choice, four children, single parent and full-time job, there was no easy way, other than doing it the correct way, the hard way. I put my head down and I didn’t look up. I can now say for sure that it was all worth it.

“The Women’s Workshop was a discussion between like-minded people trying to find a way to encourage more ladies to join us and discussing how we can help those already taking the Knowledge or out in the cab. I would have been so grateful if I had this ten years ago, so what Katie Chennells and her team are doing can only be commended.”


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