Stagecoach Bluebird trailblazing towards gender balance with women now 22% of its bus drivers

A Scottish bus operator said today it was “ahead of the curve” in rebalancing the chronically male-dominated industry by announcing more than one in five of its drivers were women.

The north east firm is celebrating the success of its female staff to mark International Women’s Day on Monday.

It has one of the highest proportions of female drivers among the Perth-based Stagecoach Group’s UK-wide operations.

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The level is more than three times the industry average, with a 2019 Labour Force Survey for the UK’s Office for National Statistics showing just 7 per cent of bus drivers were women.

"Deep down, the guys here know we’re just as good on the road as they are" - driver Nikki Shewan. Picture: Stagecoach Bluebird/Newsline

One Stagecoach Bluebird driver, Amber Beattie from Aberdeen, who joined the company eight years ago, said: “There are definitely a lot more female bus drivers on the road now than there was back in 2013."

Ms Beattie, who is also a driving mentor for newly-qualified colleagues, said: "I think there is a fairly long standing perception that men are better drivers in general – not just of buses – but I get a lot of compliments from passengers about my driving and take pride in the part I play in challenging that bias.”

Fellow driver and mentor Nikki Shewan, who is also based in Aberdeen, said: “It is great to see more and more female drivers out on the road.

"My advice to anyone thinking about joining the industry would be to just go for it.

Danielle Martin combines her bus driving with a college course. Picture: Stagecoach Bluebird/Newsline

"I think regardless of your job, you’ll always see some degree of gender based bias, but deep down, the guys here know we’re just as good on the road as they are.”

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Danielle Martin from Portlethen, south of Aberdeen, became a driver last year aged 19 after work experience with the company while at school and going on to work in its Aberdeen travel shop.

She drives part time while studying childhood practice at North East of Scotland College.

Driver Amber Beattie said many more women had joined her in the cab since she started working at the bus firm in 2013. Picture: Stagecoach Bluebird/Newsline

Ms Martin said: “I really enjoyed my work experience with Stagecoach and was surprised at how many different jobs there were in the company.

"It was great to get the chance to progress from working in the travel shop to train to become a bus driver.

"I love being out on the road and meeting different people using the bus every day.”

Stagecoach Bluebird managing director Peter Knight said: “I’m really proud of all of our staff but do understand the importance of attracting more women to our business.

"We are ahead of the curve with 22 per cent of our driver roles filled by women.

"But the industry as a whole still has some way to go in tackling the gender imbalance."

West Coast Motors, which runs buses in Argyll, Glasgow and the Borders, has 6.8 per cent women drivers, and two of its three directors are female.

Stagecoach Bluebird also appears to be far ahead of most British train operators, only 6 per cent of whose drivers are female.

The Scotland-London east coast main line operator London North Eastern Railway is above average with 10 per cent of its drivers being women.

However, it wants to significantly increase the proportion and launched a campaign on Friday to double applications from women to 40 per cent within four years.

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