I saw a female bus driver and thought “I could do that” - Kirstie Bull

Kirstie is an Operations Manager for Brighton & Hove Buses. In 2020 she won the Everywoman in Transport Award in the ‘Above & Beyond Customer/Passenger’ category. This was originally posted on the CPT website.

It only takes seeing one woman driving a bus to encourage others to do the same. For me, it was in 1998. I had just got back from travelling the world and I was in Brighton at my local shopping centre. I was waiting to catch the bus home when I saw a female driver go past. I thought to myself: “I could do that.”

I joined Brighton & Hove Buses in 1998 and was a driver for five years. I then came back in 2008, where I worked my way up – from bus driver, to mentor, to relief supervisor. In 2020 I became an Operations Manager of our Conway Street depot, where I oversee more than 250 colleagues.

Before the pandemic, we were working hard to recruit more women at every level. We would even bring a bus to Brighton’s Churchill Square to give passers-by the opportunity to get behind the wheel and realise that driving a large vehicle isn’t so scary after all.

It hasn’t always been easy. ‘Canteen talk’ was– and remains – a battle, especially when you’re on your own trying to challenge your colleagues on things that shouldn’t be said. But that mentality is changing, too. As more women have joined us over the years, barriers have been breaking down.

More women in the bus industry helps give different perspectives and viewpoints and shows people an alternative to what was a male-dominated industry. With more women in the workplace, the atmosphere has become more tolerant, respectful and professional.

I’ve noticed more and more changes coming from the top, too. The Covid crisis has thrown a whole new curveball in our industry. Our Managing Director, Martin Harris, has been addressing colleagues with weekly videos throughout and he’s addressed difficult topics that before may have been swept under the carpet. It feels like we’re entering a more sincere and considerate era.

To recruit more women into the industry as we come out of the pandemic, we need to look at factors that prevent them from applying. Shift work can have a massive impact, with the pressures of rotas changing from week to week. There’s a lot of work the industry needs to do on improving that – and I think coming out of Covid may be the perfect time to start.