7 months ago

Metro rail job: Women's place

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Despite the metro rail job being a specialised one, the apathy of women, including the educated ones, towards it turns out to be a quandary. The Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) authorities say the company has offered women the full scope of working either at the front desk or in the back office. They rue the fact that the elevated railway has so far received unbelievably few job applications from women. The DMTCL has till now recruited 325 people in different job categories. Of them, 207 have joined on being imparted training. A tiny few, only five of them, are women. Four are serving as station controllers. One has been recruited as a train operator. It has been learnt that the said four are among the 60 station controllers. And the only woman train operator is among a total 24 of them.

Here one would like to turn to the online YouTube channel which runs a popular programme on civilian aircraft operation. One of its segments is focused on the cockpit interiors. It shows how two women pilots operate a large passenger aircraft. The amazing aspect of the scenario is around 40 per cent of the pilots operating wide-bodied aircraft are women. The planes range from Boeing, Airbus to scores of other heavy aircraft. A salient feature of the cockpit interior is the sprightly yet highly professional ambience. At times, the women pilots appear to be defter than their male counterparts. The cockpits apart, the whole airports appear to be abuzz with the movements of female ground staff. The high-speed ground railways and the underground ones are equally staffed with skilled crew and attendants of both sexes in many overseas countries. Many in Bangladesh are visibly dejected at the treatment meted out to the young women who might have been drawn to the metro rail career with a few dollops of encouragement.

A report in FE on March 9 says the advertisements for hiring officials and engineers for the metro rail did not carry the words 'Women are encouraged to apply', as mentioned in many other job advertisements. It seems there is a lacuna. The DMTCL Managing Director (MD) says in this regard that government guidelines set quotas at the starting grades. He also hastens to add that DMTCL has given a good working environment and facilities for women. It is meant to make sure that women work in their comfort zone as required for them in a job, the MD added. The FE report quoted the DMTCL website as saying the five women already recruited by the company were hired in the last few grades. However, all said and done, confusions and a smokescreen have been created over the making of careers by women in the metro rail sector. The days of white collar manual jobs are gone. Bangladesh is fast stepping into the fully digitised world. Women's jobs in the coming decades are set to be enriched with all kinds of digital features. Against this backdrop, it was unlikely that educated women would not have felt attracted to jobs like that in the metro rail's MRT-6 Line if projected effectively.

A stark reality regarding the MRT lines is about to surface. An official says all MRT projects are facing a lack of manpower. It's because most of them have been hired on deputation. "Those who have been recruited for MRT-6 at the entry level will be accommodated as permanent staff of the DMTCL," the official added. It would have been good news had the plan included the female staff of all categories. A request has been sent out to many male and female government officials enriched with technical knowledge to join the project. Surprisingly, the officials have not shown much interest as they spoke from their own experience that a woman engineer is always unwelcome. It speaks amply of the typical male-centric mindset. When the nation's avowed policy is to achieve gender parity in all sectors of life, this attitude appears unconscionable. However, the cause of disinterest in the metro rail job shown by educated women lies somewhere else. It could be the nature and character of the sophisticated job. A section of women otherwise interested in the job may have started feeling they might not fully meet the technical requirements which the job demands. As has been learnt, the MRT operation is similar to that of trains in many respects. It is run fully on electricity with no separate engine. But it has a modern track system. Being a technical hand of the metro rail has its unique character. Be it the job of an engineer, an operator or a front desk or a back office staff, they offer a work-friendly atmosphere cherished by women. The country's railway has a number of women recruits at different levels. The metro jobs meant for women appear to have emerged as being a little different, thanks to their off-beat nature and overall environs.   The old system has to be changed in order to ensure an enabling atmosphere for the smooth operation of the metro rail set-up including its technological and administrative areas. First of all, the thrust has to be put on a recruitment process free of the semblance of bias skewed against women --- inadvertent or caused by a moribund and age-old system.

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