Until recently, the taxi industry had one of the lowest rates of women in the workforce; men dominated the taxi industry at almost every level as drivers, owners, trade associations, regulators, and in several other roles. However, many female entrepreneurs and decision-makers have joined and risen to various leadership roles in recent decades.
Empowering and encouraging more women to join the taxi industry is essential to help shape it for the future. With every conscious effort and initiative to achieve a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world, this International Women's Day, Taxi Butler seized the opportunity to engage in conversations with female leaders from across the industry. They shared their views on their challenges and their inspiration to continue in the taxi industry.
On asking what truly inspired them to choose a career in the taxi industry, Slavina Paleva, Director of Operations at Taxi Butler, shared that she enjoys the industry's dynamic nature when introducing new technology and solutions for fleets who are looking to improve their operations and innovate. She says: "I have always been interested in improving people's lives through technology, doing things better and faster. It simply was a match."
For Hedy Borreman, Director at TCA in the Netherlands, the changes seen in the industry in 2016 caught her interest. With the disruption of the platform economy, they had to look at their own USPs and stand out from the competition. To be on the frontline of change and further digitalisation of businesses appealed to her.
Megan Wichlinski, Engagement and Communications Manager at 13cabs in Australia, feels that the taxi industry found her. She was simply looking for work when she stumbled into the industry. It's been almost 5 years in three different roles, all of which have been very different, but all the people she has worked with and met along the way have been incredible.
Chaya Ganapathy, Director of Accounts at Taxi Butler in the Netherlands, added that, by chance, she was introduced to the taxi industry and has loved it since then. During her early work days, she conversed daily with taxi company owners, associations, and taxi drivers, leading to a gateway to connecting with people and their experiences. They got to learn something new, something inspiring, from each person they meet or talk to daily.
Discussing what they enjoy the most about the taxi industry, Hedy says: "There is never a dull moment. The industry is now going through many changes driven from a political perspective, whether the drivers are truly self-employed, the need to move to zero-emission faster than other transportation means, the pressure from cities to have fewer cars in their city centres and many more. Being at the centre of these important topics and trying to influence those powers is most challenging and interesting and definitely something I enjoy."
Megan also adds that the industry has never had a dull moment for her: "I like how the people – the staff, drivers, operators - are all great and constantly work towards providing an excellent customer experience.”
Chaya adds that she enjoys her conversations with people in the taxi industry. Journeys with taxi drivers, in particular, have always been more than a car ride, where she had had the experience to share and laugh about their interests in cricket, for example, or talking about a city that they know in common, language, food, or even how they started their own taxi company and what inspired them. The taxi industry is so diverse that she has met people from different walks of life. Every taxi ride has ended up with interesting conversations, perspectives on how they see life, things around us, and political views.
Slavina Paleva likes that the taxi industry is the backbone of how a city moves and that it is through the taxi drivers that tourists can experience the city when they are on their way to the town from the airport. She adds: "We at Taxi Butler are suppliers for the industry, so our job is to make sure that the technology is top-notch; however, it is still one of the industries where human connection and customer experience are as important as the technology that enables it."
According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics, the number of women employed in the taxi industry increased from 24% in 2002 to 33% in 2018. This increase may be thanks to the introduction of services catering to female customers, such as female-only taxi services. On talking about if more women should join the industry, Megan said there is a change in the making. She said: "The current COO of 13Cabs Australia is female, the new CEO, who started this month is female too. Seeing women in these roles is incredibly inspiring and something to work towards."
Hedy also agreed that there should be more females in the taxi industry. She stated that a good balance of gender but an overall diverse workforce changes how a company looks at things. Diversity in an organisation brings a different mix of values, ultimately creating a better company. This applies to the corporate side but also from a driver's perspective, as there are still have a lot of female customers that would prefer a female driver. Slavina also agreed that more females should cater to this industry with the passing days. She also added: "We bring a unique perspective to a team and, most importantly, balance. A diverse fleet offers more options to the end customer."
On discussing if they believed that the female taxi drivers faced any obstacles during their journey, Hedy Borreman shares: "The biggest challenge actually has nothing to do with gender, but in the Netherlands, it mostly has to do with the complexity of legislation that is involved, the change in staff within the various parties at a national and local level of authorities that you have engaged with, causes a lack of knowledge and you have the feeling that every time you have to start explaining again how our industry works. This is the biggest challenge if you want to move forward."
Slavina adds: "There still is a lot to accomplish regarding pay equality and safety for women behind the wheel. However, we have come a long way, and the path ahead is bright."
Celebrating strength, resilience, and courage
South Africa recently launched a campaign to empower female entrepreneurs in the minibus taxi industry. The taxi industry in S.A. is one of the highest revenue generators, with an estimated R50 billion in annual revenues.
With this initiative, S.A. Taxi has invested R3.5 billion to empower female entrepreneurs in the minibus taxi industry, increasing its female client base by an average of 4.5% per annum, helping to create 8,473 female-owned SMEs and financing 12,092 vehicles – an average of 1.4 cars per owner.
Women breaking barriers and making their mark in the taxi industry is an inspiring development highlighting the need for greater gender diversity and inclusion in all fields of work. While women in the taxi industry may still face some challenges, many stories and anecdotes show just how much success and inspiration women provide for the industry.
Article by: Jessica Farrington, Customer Support Executive at Taxi Butler.