Women take the wheel to shatter the transport glass ceiling

Bronwen Pinto is a My Citi bus driver. Photo taken on 4 October 2018 in Woodstock, Cape Town. By Aphiwe Ngalo

The transport industry has been traditionally dominated by men, but the winds of change are blowing.

Most people ask me, ‘how do you drive such a big bus when you are so small?’ I tell them it is about how you drive, not how big or small you are.” Pint-sized MyCiTi bus driver Bronwen Pinto fields this question daily.

Pinto entered the world of MyCiTi through a learnership in 2006 and has been working there ever since.

She spoke to Daily Maverick during a visit by Mayor Patricia De Lille to the Tollgate Depot in Woodstock, Cape Town.

The mayor Patricia De Lille on tour on a MyCiti bus. Photo taken in Woodstockk Cape Town by Aphiwe Ngalo on 4 October 2018.

The visit by the mayor forms part of a campaign that is aimed at empowering and celebrating women in industries that are traditionally dominated by men, and also to mark Transport month.

Pinto, 29, did not want to be a driver when she was growing up. “I wanted to be a teacher, but because of financial problems I was unable to study after matric.”

She entered the industry in 2006. “I applied for the learnership after my cousin, who also works for Golden Arrow, told me about it.” Through the City of Cape Town learnership she has been able to build a life for herself.

What I enjoy about working here is that I can progress. I can study through the City and move between specialisations. If I want to do something else, the opportunity will be granted.”

Nomhle Thyulu, a cleaner hopes to move through the ranks to become a dispatcher. Photo taken in woodstock Cape Town on 4 October by Aphiwe Ngalo.

The depot has also opened doors for Nomhle Thyulu, a cleaner at the Tollgate Depot who has aspirations of becoming a bus dispatcher.

I only started working for the City of Cape Town last year, and I already have sights set on climbing the ladder.” After completing matric in 2005, she too struggled to study further because of a lack of finances.

I was raised by a single mother — my father died in 1992 and my mother struggled to put me through school.” After working as an airport cleaner, Thyulu tried her luck with the City. “I got the job only three years after I applied. My mother was so happy she had an asthma attack when I told her.”

Thyulu is determined to become a dispatcher. “As a dispatcher, you make sure that the bus stays on course during the journey, and that any problems are handled quickly and efficiently — that is the position I am aiming for.”

Women who work in transport talk to Mayor Patricia De Lille. Photo taken in Cape Town by Aphiwe Ngalo on 4 October.

Addressing women at a round table discussion, De Lille spoke about the sexism women face at work.

There is this perception that we can’t put women in a certain position because she is going to take time off. What you find is that it is the opposite.” Women worked harder and were absent less than men, said De Lille.

In any work condition, there must be provision for pregnancy or being a mother… What we do in the city is, if they work in areas where it dangerous for them during the months of pregnancy, we try and move them out of that situation.”

During the visit, the mayor was given a tour of the facilities and the MyCiTi buses the women drive. MyCiTi has 52 female bus drivers, 12 female dispatch operators and two female technicians, the Cape Town Government website says. DM


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