Women drivers get the thumbs up

NEXT time you board a Citybus don't be too surprised if the driver is female, as the company has an active policy to encourage more women at the wheel.

Citybus now employs 15 women among its team of drivers.

Two of the women who have led the charge on the male-dominated job are Law Fung-lin, 45, and Kitty Kwok Yuk-ling, 37.

Both recently joined the company to drive for its new Network 26.

Mrs Kwok has a public bus-franchised driving licence and worked in Kowloon Motor Bus for three months earlier this year before she joined Citybus.

''Driving a double-decker makes no great difference but with narrower roads on Hong Kong island, there is a need to pay even more attention when turning corners and to keep a sharp eye on building balconies and lamp posts,'' she said.

''I lived in the southern district when I was small. Now, working in the district gives me a sense of belonging.'' Mrs Kwok said she would be in charge of bus number 90 from Ap Lei Chau to Central today.

When she first started to drive buses she was worried about missing any stops.

Her task was made even harder when passengers sat near her and watched her performance at the wheel.

She has the support of her family and her 12-year-old son shares her interest in driving.

Mrs Kwok is a driving enthusiast and derives special pleasure when she gets behind the wheel of a large vehicle.

The company offers women drivers a shorter driving shift if they so desire, but Mark Savelli, the divisional manager (South) of Citybus, said: ''The women are reluctant to avail themselves of this special treatment.'' Mrs Law Fung-lin wants to be treatedon an equal footing with her male colleagues.

''Driving buses poses no problems for women,'' she said.

Mrs Law had not driven big passenger vehicles before, but for many years she has made a living by driving lorries, school coaches and mini-buses.

When she learned that Citybus was recruiting female drivers for double-decker buses, she quit her previous job and applied to Citybus.

''It is a good opportunity to challenge myself. If I have confidence, I will achieve [success],'' she said.

Although it was a new experience, Mrs Law said she found no problems in driving double-decker buses.

''My children, who are in their 20s, had great confidence that I could pass the driving test,'' she said.

Mrs Law obtained a public bus-franchised driving licence after two weeks of training at the Hong Kong School of Motoring.

The school was responsible for training applicants with car licences for Citibus.

The company has plans to recruit more women to join in future.

It will target female school bus drivers and promote them to the larger Citybus vehicles.

''By having woman drivers on the road, it breaks down the traditional perception that driving a bus is not for women,'' said Mr Savelli.

The company was also aiming to recruit more females because customers felt more comfortable with women drivers, he said.