Melbourne-based Inderjeet Kaur turned her keen interest in driving into a profession that is traditionally male-dominated. Here she talks about her ‘odd’ yet ‘intriguing’ journey to become a taxi driver.
Inderjeet Kaur, often called ‘Australia’s first turbaned Sikh female taxi driver,’ has a powerful message for women.
“If you turn your passion into your profession then there is nothing a woman can’t achieve – be it a taxi driver, a scientist or an astronaut,” she says confidently.
Ms Kaur is one of the very few women whose profession puts them behind the wheels and she is defying stereotypes within the Australian Sikh community.
She may well be the only turbaned Sikh female who has been actively pursuing a career as a taxi driver for 11 years now, working in an industry which is predominantly male-oriented.
Although there are no restrictions on women taking up driving as a profession it could be said there's a cultural stigma that women can’t be good drivers.
Ms Kaur says she always wanted to prove this wrong.
“Women can drive as well as men can! I can’t understand why there are so many jokes targeting female drivers and why there has been gender stereotyping,” she says.
“I can understand that India has a patriarchal society, but I don’t know why this should exist here in any of the local communities.”
Ms Kaur is one such woman who is brazenly upending gender roles.
“There are people who wanted me to do something else other than to be a cabbie,” she says.
“Some men will jokingly say that sitting with a female car driver could be as bad as suicide. There shouldn’t be a comparison. But if someone wants to do it then take our word that we’re as good as men are. Let it be driving or any other job.”
Ms Kaur arrived in Australia in 2003 after her marriage with Melbourne-based Bahadar Singh.
“My husband was already in the taxi business at that time. He gave me driving lessons and once I was confident, he helped me learn how to find places using a Melway,” she adds. “I must admit that I was equally nervous and excited at that time.”
“I knew my capabilities. All I needed was a bit of encouragement that I later had from my husband. He was very kind and patient to help me through this journey,” she says.
Ms Kaur has always been a ‘working woman’ who tried her skills in a wide variety of roles.
“I used to work as a teacher back in India. Once I had dreamt of becoming a police officer, but I couldn’t fulfil it,” she says.
“I have worked in many odd jobs including in a factory, at a child care centre and even at an aged care facility. But none of these jobs gave me as much flexibility with the time that I am enjoying as a taxi driver.”
Now firmly settled in Australia, Ms Kaur says she is very content and thankful with what life has offered her here.
“It has been a very intriguing journey so far,” she says. “It all happened with my mother’s blessings and teachings who always wanted me to be an independent woman who could proudly serve her family and society at all times by all means.
“This country treats you with dignity and respect and you feel no job is smaller or inferior as long as you’re committed and passionate about your work,” she says.
Ms Kaur urges more women to consider getting past the stereotypes and getting behind the wheel.
“I am my own boss who can manage her own life and timeline as she wishes to,” she says.
“My profession has definitely helped me achieve my goal of finding the right kind of work-life balance. If I can why can’t someone else benefit from this profession?”
A spokesperson for 13CABS in Melbourne told SBS Punjabi that gender disparity has always been a major issue within the taxi industry.
“We have more than 10,000 registered taxi drivers but seeing female taxi drivers is a rare sight,” he says.
“The ratio is very low. It’s hard to put in numbers but I suspect that there could be less than 100 female drivers who are actively pursuing this career.”
“But we’re glad that it’s picking up now with many female drivers opting for day shifts, office pickups and helping elderly and disabled customers using maxi taxis.”