Meet Metrolinx’s first all-female bus driver class

This year, Metrolinx is welcoming its first all-female bus driver class. Metrolinx attracts more and more talented women who feel at ease applying for positions that were historically male dominated. Discover how Metrolinx successfully improved its bus driver recruitment to break down barriers for women and move towards gender balance.

Metrolinx is taking one giant leap towards gender parity.

For the first time in its 55-year history, GO Transit is training the first all-female GO bus driver class.

The cohort of eight women – which started in January – was selected from over 1,000 applicants. Last year’s class also had a female majority. The combination of flexibility and improvements to the recruiting process helped to attract more women.  

“We identified bus operators as one of the positions where women are under-represented,” said Cosmas Aberika, a talent acquisition consultant at Metrolinx.

“We do know the societal perception is that buses are for men, and we want to change that mentality.”

A GO bus driver at the depot getting ready to start her shift. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Several steps were taken to attract women and remove barriers.

Metrolinx started hiring full-time bus drivers, offering more stability than part-time positions. As well, the test to assess a driver’s capabilities, which used to be paid for by candidates, is now done at Metrolinx’s expense.

“We did an in-depth review of the job posting to look for any language that would create a level of potential bias, or just even subconsciously have somebody assume ‘I’m not right for this,’ without even applying”, says Maria Kapovsky, Metrolinx driver safety & training manager.

The Human Resources team trained hiring managers on how to conduct interviews, eliminate bias, and choose the right questions.

“You can easily alienate candidates if you’re asking them things that you really shouldn’t,” Kapovsky said.  

Gender balance is also important in choosing the interviewers.

“It gives a different perspective for the [interview] panel to evaluate the candidates and it gives the candidates something to strive for,” Kapovsky explained. “They get to see that after a couple years of experience, they can be on the other side.

“They can see their potential progression, right in front of them.”

Flexibility also plays a key role in Metrolinx’s ability to attract women bus drivers.

a female GO employee
Metrolinx continues to strive for gender-balance within its bus operations. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

It is important for candidates to balance personal lives and the training commitment, especially during the pandemic.

“We do have conversations on what works best for people, and we will defer a start date if we need to, in order to make it easier for them,” Kapovsky said.  

“We need to understand everything that is going on with childcare, people moving, people changing their lives significantly.”

While the pandemic has changed the way many Metrolinx employees work, some things are still the same.

“You can’t teach somebody to drive a bus from home,” Kapovsky said.

Although Metrolinx strives to achieve gender-balance within its bus operations, Kapovsky emphasizes that Metrolinx focuses solely on skills during the recruitment process.

“These trainees got the position because they were the best candidates. They did the best in interviews, and they passed the test. It is 100 per cent on their own merits.”

For more information on GO Transit bus driver recruitment process, visit this recruitment page.

Story by Amandine Viaud, bilingual communications coordinator