A new children’s book celebrating women bus drivers from the West Midlands, is aiming to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage girls to consider a career as public vehicle operators.

National Express bus driver Leona Kirwan, who is features in the book, went to a Birmingham primary school to read the book to young pupils.

The Wonderful Women Bus Drivers of the West Midlands is written by Kate Reynolds and Nikki Houghton at National Express – which employs 270 female bus drivers – and was launched on International Women’s Day.

On the back pf the publication’s release, the company is sending out women drivers on a school book reading tour around the West Midlands and the Black Country.

Leona Kirwan – who works at the Acocks Green bus depot and is a driver on the famous no.11 bus route – recently intorduced the book to 120 excited Key Stage 1 children at Acocks Green Primary School.

Ms Kirwan read the new book to pupils at Acocks Green Primary SchoolNational Express West Midlands
Ms Kirwan reading the new book to pupils at Acocks Green Primary School

Aimed at children aged 3-7 years old, the storybook explores women drivers who manage regional buses and their important roles in the local community.

Set across Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country, the book is a colourful, heart warming tale of women bus drivers and colleagues – Leona, Diane, Saba, Joanne, Lynne and Sharon – coming together in their quest to help save the annual family fun day.

Ms Kirwan said she was honoured to be featured in a book that inspires young girls: “I’m so proud and really grateful to have played a part in this book and hope it encourages the younger generation to consider driving a bus as a career choice – and more fabulous women too.

“I’ve been driving buses for over three years now and it’s a great opportunity for anyone to develop their skills, meet new people and see new places.

“I was talking to my niece about my job and she was surprised that I drive buses. When I asked her why she said, “because you’re a girl!”. It was a perfect opportunity to talk to her about the fact that when she’s older she can do it too and she now wants to come and sit in my driver’s seat!”

Ms Kirwan met her partner Sebastien (also a bus driver) when he travelled on her busNational Express West Midlands
Ms Kirwan met her partner Sebastien, also a bus driver, when he travelled on her bus one day

National Express director, and co-author of the book, Kate Reynolds, said: “The transport industry is sometimes perceived as male-dominated and we want to tackle gender stereotypes.

“We have a fantastic group of women bus drivers and training officers who are great ambassadors for the profession and we hope that by sharing their stories more women and young girls will be inspired to consider a fulfilling career in bus driving.

“The sector has a huge opportunity in terms of attracting women to be drivers and we’re making great strides to provide a welcoming and inclusive culture to help our women drivers flourish in their roles.

Leona's children's book is aiming to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage girls to consider a career as bus driversNational Express West Midlands
The new book celebrates the vital contribution made by women bus drivers from the West Midlands

Sonya Byers, CEO at Women in Transport, added: “72 per cent of women across the UK are currently in employment, yet they remain underrepresented in the transport sector, accounting for only 26 per cent of workers.

“The vital experiences and perspectives that women bring to the bus industry help us all to connect not only with each other but also with local customers and communities.

The Wonderful Women Bus Drivers of the West Midlands book is a brilliant celebration of some amazing role models that we hope will inspire today’s young girls to become bus drivers of the future.”

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