In this edition of Women in Business, women were interviewed who are employed in typically male-dominated industries or in a position that was historically filled by a man.
These women share their stories of being underrepresented in their field and leadership roles – in the hope that their perseverance and success become the guiding light for the next generation of women in business, so they continue to break glass ceilings and meet their goals.
Women in Business shows who the movers and the shakers are in Kelowna and that there is always a space to share stories of successful women.
Sandra Hewitt has always had the nurturing ability to be responsible for the safety of others; from running a daycare for 23 years to now sitting behind the wheel of a BC Transit bus.
She has spent the last seven years being devoted to driving the HandyDART from Lake Country to Peachland, helping those with disabilities or who cannot use fixed-route transit without the assistance of someone else.
“I needed a change and I absolutely love it,” she said.
Hewitt’s husband works for BC Transit and encouraged her to take on a new path and a new skill set – driving a mini-bus.
She admits it was intimidating to step out of her comfort zone and get behind the wheel of a bus.
“Once I got my license, I also got support from BC Transit workers and trainers and I fell in love with the job very quickly,” said Hewitt. “You are continually helping people and I think it lends to that nurturing aspect of women.”
Hewlett says there is a sense of responsibility ensuring that those who need assistance can be picked up at their door and dropped off where they need to be.
“If we didn’t do this job, these people wouldn’t get to go to the places they need to be. We offer this door-to-door service,” she said. “And, if you ask me HandyDART is the best-kept secret in town.”
Being the driver of a bus that takes a particular route each day, Hewitt has got to know her passengers well over the years. She has seen seniors create lasting friendships, those with disabilities grow and taken on new challenges and heard touching stories from people’s past.
“With the pandemic, ridership has been down a lot, but I recently picked up a senior lady and she got on the bus, looking around all wide-eyed. Through our conversation, it came out that she hadn’t been out of her house in four months and she was looking around as if everything was brand new. For me to be apart of that and that I was able to take her somewhere, was special,” described Hewitt.
However, driving a bus does have its qualms. Hewitt said she has been faced with criticism over her driving just based on the fact she is a woman. However, she says she takes it in stride and every time she arrives at a destination those who may have questioned her are surprised to see how well she has handled the bus on the road.
There are just a few female city bus drivers in Kelowna and one female mechanic working for BC Transit, however, Hewitt says getting behind the wheel of a large vehicle isn’t exactly a role women dominate in.
“If we could get more women to come to do this job, it would be amazing,” she said.
Hewitt believes that it could be the intimidation factor of driving a bus, from busy highway traffic to maneuvering tight spaces, that is something women fear.
“I discovered a new-found confidence in myself, that I didn’t know I had, once I learned how to drive the bus,” she explained. “I look at my granddaughters and if they can see that grandma can do this at my age, I can turn things around and go from one career to another that I love, then they can go for anything.”