This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the women at the heart of How-2-Drive, and making the case for more women to consider a career as a driving instructor.
The latest data released by the DVSA showed only 22% of instructors in Great Britain were female.
Driving jobs may traditionally have been male-dominated but Samantha Floyd, who runs How-2-Drive with her husband Howard, said she hopes more women will come forward to train to become an instructor.
“Being a driving instructor can offer many benefits to men and women alike,” she said.
“For women who want to make their work fit around family and other commitments, it can be ideal. But it’s not just about flexible working for mums; being your own boss and setting your own hours would appeal to lots of women!
“And there is certainly high demand, with various reasons for pupils wanting to learn with a female instructor. We often get asked if we have female instructors in different areas around Norfolk and Suffolk, and can’t always meet the demand.”
Dawn Coady, who lives in Cringleford and delivers lessons in and around Norwich, started training with How-2-Drive in June 2018. She qualified as an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) in January. We asked her about her role so far.
Why did you decide to become an ADI?
I worked in recruitment for 18 years and wanted to start a new career in teaching.
I love meeting new people and this looked like an ideal opportunity to work around my son starting school and having more flexibility in school holidays.
I didn’t understand why there aren’t more female driving instructors, which encouraged me even more to start my training. You always remember your driving instructor and I wanted to give people a positive learning experience and skill that will stay with them forever.
There are limited opportunities to start a new career, without having to complete years of training. The benefits are great because you can work as hard as you want and still enjoy a great work-life balance.
What was the process to get started and how did you fit in your training?
I started my training with Howard, How-2-Drive’s founder, in June last year so I could time it with my son starting school in September. I was able to fast-track the training through the summer holidays and passed my Part 3 test (becoming an ADI involves passing three tests – Theory, Driving and Teaching) in January. Flexibility and being able to organise childcare were key for me.
What were the hardest parts about qualifying?
The hardest part of the training was understanding the risks when you are teaching people in a ‘live’ environment. We are on busy roads and safety is key, so you have to watch the pupil and practice not just looking at the road ahead, but what they might potentially do and how they react to instructions.
You can say one thing and they interpret it differently. The roleplay situations during training really helped with real-life scenarios.
The tests were hard, especially re-taking the driving test. I passed 25 years ago and you develop bad habits over the years. It was great to have advanced driving training, in order to pass the test and also pass on the skills and knowledge to learners.
How do you fit being an ADI around family life?
Being an instructor is perfect for me because I can choose the hours and days I work. If I only want to teach one person a day, I can. It fits around school hours and I can work a few hours at the weekend if I need more time during the week.
I can’t imagine many jobs where I would have had the same flexibility to plan work around my family, but also where doing less during ‘normal’ working hours, doesn’t necessarily mean doing less work altogether. It’s ideal.
What are the best bits about being an instructor in Norwich?
I love being an instructor in Norwich, as there are so many areas to cover, with an eclectic range of people to teach.
My learners come from various backgrounds and countries, and work in different industries, from students to doctors. It’s so interesting getting to know everyone; because you are in a car for two hours with each person, after several months they feel like a friend.
What sort of reasons do people give for preferring a female instructor?
It’s really down to personal preference; some people don’t care one way or the other, whereas some people just feel more comfortable with either a male or female instructor.
I had a female instructor when I learnt to drive, as I just felt more comfortable with a lady teaching me. I wanted to do the same for other women, as there aren’t enough working in the industry and there is a high demand for female instructors.
Learning to drive can be an emotional process and some people expect a female instructor to be more empathetic and understanding. That’s not to say my male colleagues aren’t, but it’s just down to what people’s expectations are and how they feel.
Also, some women feel uncomfortable being in close proximity to a man who is a stranger to start with, and some people ask for a female instructor for religious and cultural reasons.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about training to become an ADI?
Make it happen and do it! I still can’t believe I have become an ADI in such a short space of time. I love my job and it’s such an amazing feeling when someone passes their test.
It makes me smile when a new learner sits in the car for the first time and it’s down to me to help them on their journey to becoming a safe driver. What other career could give you such job satisfaction?