Michelle Klein & Maria Mafrici
Maria had always wondered what it would be like to drive something bigger than her little Corolla.
So when she decided she needed a career change, she got her heavy rigid licence and started handing her resume out at Melbourne’s bus depots.
Today, she’s been driving buses for nine years, contributing to the five per cent of bus drivers in Victoria who are women.
Ventura is one bus company that is actively recruiting women, offering to pay for suitable candidates to get their licence.
Maria thinks the program is sensational and will go some way towards attracting women to a new career, albeit at a slow pace.
“I think for many women, the prospect of driving a large vehicle is daunting. Most of us are used to driving small cars,” Maria says.
“Safety is another issue. But you know, I feel safe 100 per cent of the time because there’s duress alarms, there’s cameras, we’ve got these gorgeous guards.
“We’re taught how to deal with challenging passengers and, if I need to, I can radio in and there’ll be help waiting at a stop down the road. The response is amazing, it’s so quick.”
A mother of two, Maria now fills a casual rail replacement shift at Ventura which fits in with her commitments outside work.
“This casual shift is the reason I came back to the field after having kids,” Maria says.
“It’s quite flexible which is what a mum needs. It’s good they’re trying to be more family friendly.”
Ventura colleague Michelle started her career at Ventura in the graduate program. Now, the 26-year-old is the senior supervisor of operations at the company’s Pakenham depot.
She’s the only woman in her office, but she isn’t intimidated by the male-dominated workplace.
“I never really used to think about being the only woman in the office,” Michelle says.
“But now I have four supervisors working under me; all men and all significantly older than me.
“There are times when I’m aware of my age and being female and it’s a little bit scary that I’m in charge.
“But I think having come through the graduate program, it’s given me the confidence to be able to manage these guys and they respond really well.”
Maria has also found confidence in her career and attributes driving buses to a personal transformation.
“Once I got over that daunting phase, I just loved it. And I still do,” Maria says.
“Look at what you’re doing, you’re driving this big vehicle! It’s quite empowering. I feel really proud.
“To any woman considering this as a job, I would say you do overcome that fear. And once it passes, it’s liberating, it’s fantastic.
“For me, it made me a different person. My confidence is sky-high and I feel like I can do anything.”