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We Can Do It 2.0

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Photo: Ukrainian women are taking the wheel of heavy vehicles and mastering other so-called "male" professions. This is because the war has mobilised nearly a million Ukrainian men into the Defence Forces of Ukraine. Source: FB Scania Ukraine.
Photo: Ukrainian women are taking the wheel of heavy vehicles and mastering other so-called "male" professions. This is because the war has mobilised nearly a million Ukrainian men into the Defence Forces of Ukraine. Source: FB Scania Ukraine.

Ukraine is encouraging women to take on roles traditionally held by men, who have now taken up arms to defend the country. This is reminiscent of the campaigns conducted by the US and UK governments during the Second World War, but there are many differences. Modern industries require skilled workers, and additional training takes considerable time. Contemporary society has much weaker stereotypes regarding the division of professions into exclusively "male" and "female" roles. In Ukraine, there are strong traditions not only of female employment but also of advocating for equal pay with men. Feminism, in this sense, is quite favourably received by society, although many issues remain. So, in Ukraine, "We Can Do It" is happening, but this is the second version, possibly improved.


In an interview with the German TV channel ARD, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated the number of military personnel: "We have 880,000. We have a million-strong army." However, this is not the total number of those bearing arms.


In addition to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), there is also the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which conducts intelligence and sabotage activities and has its own project for using aerial and naval drones for deep strikes on Russian targets. There are the Border Guard Service and National Guard, these are also involved in combat operations. The State Emergency Service (SES) personnel deal with the aftermath of Russian air and missile attacks. SES personnel are in high-risk zones because Russians often brazenly launch repeat attacks on civilian sites where rescue operations have already begun. This means that at least 1.2 million personnel are engaged in Ukraine's defence forces and paramilitary formations.


Of course, the majority of the defence personnel are men. For example, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (including the ground forces, navy, and air force) have approximately 43,000 women serving. These figures indicate that about 800,000 men have been mobilised since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, according to Ukraine’s state statistics, the number of working-age people has decreased from 17.4 million to 11.7 million due to the displacement of individuals to Europe for safety. Additionally, due to mobilisation, the number of men working in the economy and in civil service has decreased by almost 15%.


In specific professional groups, the situation is even more severe. For instance, the AFU needs heavy truck drivers, electricians, auto mechanics, heavy construction equipment operators, and many other professions. These professionals are being actively recruited both through mobilisation and by inviting volunteers for contract service. This leads to the depletion of entire professional groups, adversely affecting economic life. Ukraine is facing a severe shortage of representatives of so-called "male" professions. Even wage increases and retraining men for related professions are not enough to solve the problem.


What is helping then? It turns out that the informal initiative "We Can Do It 2.0" is, although it does not yet have this name officially.

Photo: Years after World War II, the symbol of the campaign to attract women to industry in the US became the poster by American graphic artist J. Howard Miller, "We Can Do It." Source: Wiki.




We Can Do It 1.0

Recall that campaigns to involve women in industry, energy, and transportation took place in the US and UK 80 years ago. Many years after the victory in the Second World War, the symbol of this campaign in the US became the poster "We Can Do It" by American graphic artist J. Howard Miller. Interestingly, this poster is part of a large series created by Miller for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1942. At that time, most posters featured men as heroes, and the series was dedicated to motivating staff under increased demands and conditions overall.


However, this particular poster with a woman eventually became a visual embodiment of the campaign to involve women in the workforce. It is important to note that in the US, at that time, there was no tradition of widespread female employment. Therefore, efforts to change societal stereotypes were extremely important.


In contrast, Ukraine already had a tradition of widespread female employment, including in small businesses and self-employment. Thus, Ukraine's starting conditions were much better than those in the US and UK during the Second World War.


Photo: During the 8 months of the active phase of the Reskilling Ukraine project, it received over 1,000 applications for the truck driver retraining programme (category C) and about 250 for the bus driver retraining programme (category D). Source: Reskilling Ukraine.



Women Take the Wheel

Lesia Goroshko, Scania Ukraine

Currently, Scania Ukraine is participating in and supporting a project called "Reskilling Ukraine," which aims to train women to become truck drivers and obtain a Category C licence. However, there is also a shortage of workers in other "male" professions, such as mechanics and technical personnel at service stations (STOs). We are closely collaborating with technical educational institutions, where mostly young men study, and we are considering how to popularise these professions among girls.

 

It should be noted that the shortage of truck drivers was felt even before the war, as many drivers gained experience in Ukraine and then found employment abroad. With the onset of the full-scale invasion, the shortage of drivers became a critical problem due to the mobilisation of men into the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).

 

The "Reskilling Ukraine" project was initiated by the Swedish non-profit organisation Beredskapslyftet. At the start of the war in Ukraine, the organisation conducted a small study to understand Ukraine's needs. The shortage of drivers was identified as an acute social problem. Therefore, in the autumn of 2023, a working group was formed from Ukrainians who had relocated to Sweden, and they launched this programme. They approached us, Scania Ukraine, at the end of 2023 for assistance in implementation, as we understand the needs of transport companies, our clients, and have extensive experience in driver training programmes. We gladly agreed to this project because it allows us to support our clients and address the driver shortage crisis, even though this process is long-term. We are making progress towards our goals step by step.

 

Together with the "Reskilling Ukraine" project team, we developed a programme for women. The training for each group consists of two parts:

  • Training at a driving school, where women obtain a Category C licence after passing exams.
  • Training at Scania Ukraine, where they develop skills in areas such as economic driving, road safety, pre-trip inspection, cargo securing, and practical manoeuvring skills (e.g., docking, gate entry).


In February, two groups of 12 people each graduated. From April to June, training was conducted in the Kyiv region for three groups of 18 women each, and one group in Ternopil. Additionally, there is one group of future bus drivers. Three more groups are planned for the summer and two or three for the autumn, although summer groups were not initially planned. This shows there is significant interest from women, with a large number of applications. For one group of 18 women, there are over 100 applications. However, quality selection and motivation remain important issues.

 

There is also significant interest from transport companies in various transportation segments. It is understood that a Category C licence is not sufficient for driving heavy lorries, which require a Category E licence. However, for delivery vehicles, vans, light tippers, cranes, tractors, and similar vehicles, a Category C licence is sufficient. Companies are willing to invest in further training and adapting women to this profession.

 

Abroad, particularly in Europe (in Scandinavian countries and Germany), it is normal to see women driving trucks, without surprise or prejudice. Professional schools exist where anyone can acquire the necessary skills. Additionally, developed infrastructure, social support, and equal distribution of family responsibilities allow women to combine work with family life and child-rearing. In Ukraine, there are still challenges. Society primarily views women as keepers of the home, responsible for domestic chores and childcare, while men are seen as financial providers.

 

Currently, the situation is different. The war has deprived many Ukrainians of homes, jobs, and material possessions. Many women have lost their husbands on the front lines or due to numerous attacks on civilian sites, forcing them to take care of their financial situation independently.

 

Another important part of our programme involves women visiting various transport companies during their training. They are introduced to the company's operations, working conditions for drivers, loyalty programmes, and more. Companies such as Fozzy Group (Silpo supermarket chain), Nova Poshta, Trans-Logistik, Ferrexpo, Galnaftogaz (OKKO petrol station chain), and many others have already hosted women, and the list is constantly expanding.

 

In 2017, the government repealed regulations that considered 450 professions dangerous for women and therefore prohibited, including subway operator, firefighter, long-distance bus driver, foundry worker, and some professions in metallurgy and textile production. Officially, there are no barriers to women entering "male" professions, but societal prejudices about women as truck or bus drivers persist. Some participants have faced abusive attitudes and received negative comments or ridicule during exams and training. However, as the saying goes, "the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on."

 

We see a desire from transport companies to facilitate women's adaptation, continue training programmes, and adjust work processes and schedules to help women balance work and family time. However, this is all driven by business initiatives, which must adapt to everyday realities and find ways to survive.

 

It would be beneficial if the state also joined in. For example, creating support programmes for such women, popularising technical professions among young people, improving vocational technical schools, opening more training centres for obtaining a Category C licence, and developing transport infrastructure to meet needs such as restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, quick meal preparation or reheating, sports grounds, and comfortable rest areas for lorries. This is necessary not only for women but for all road users.


It's Not Just a Matter of Private Business

Yana Romanenko, Nibulon Group of Companies (agricultural production, shipbuilding)

 

At our company, we have projects aimed at mastering so-called "male" professions – for example, specialities such as truck driver, security guard, agricultural machinery operator, production shift supervisor, grain processing operator, sapper, and crane operator on a floating crane. We had to start these projects because we see them as an effective way to overcome the staff shortage in wartime conditions. We are feeling the impact of factors such as military mobilisation and staff turnover. This is our own initiative at Nibulon. For now, these projects are primarily funded by the company itself, although we are, of course, hoping for grant support, which is currently limited.

 

Women generally express interest in mastering so-called "male" professions, but the actual readiness is not very high. Yes, women are willing to learn, but not all of them are ready to work under certain conditions. For example, the job of a truck driver involves long trips and heavy loads. Many women have children and families at home. However, we need to cultivate a culture, break stereotypes, and act proactively. Therefore, we need to conduct informational and explanatory work, and promote such projects publicly. Moreover, society is not very ready for such changes, especially male managers and existing teams of workers. I believe that the promotion of these efforts must be undertaken by the state, large companies, and society in general. This is not just the task of private companies, I am sure.


Photo: Before the full-scale Russian invasion, women in Ukraine were mastering so-called "male professions." Now, their presence behind the wheel of public transport is becoming more noticeable. A female suburban bus driver in the city of Irpin, Kyiv region. Source: FB IrpinDaily.


Stage of Acceptance

In Ukraine, mastering so-called "male professions" is not straightforward for women. As with any complex issue, there are many influencing factors, some of which help this process, and some hinder it.


Let's start with the hindrances. Unfortunately, societal perception is not the biggest problem. The biggest issue is the economy, specifically the lack of investment during the war. For a workplace in a formerly "male profession" to be physically comfortable and accessible to women, it must be well-equipped. "Well-equipped" means "expensive." For example, a female truck driver needs a modern vehicle with a comfortable cab and powerful automation. A female construction worker needs modern, powerful construction machinery that eliminates the need for heavy physical labour. These systems are costly.


This means that attracting women requires significant capital investment. For a relatively weak Ukrainian economy with high loan interest rates, usually exceeding 12% per annum, this is a substantial problem. Surprisingly, the main obstacle to women's rights in formerly "male professions" is not societal perception but the lack of investment.


Another investment-related problem is workplace amenities. Women are traditionally more demanding in this regard. Showers and comfortable dining areas also cost money. Employers have to invest in working conditions as well. Men joke that "women will come - women will bring order," as comfort requirements in working professions in Ukraine were not previously considered too necessary for male workers.


However, societal perception also matters. The traditional division of functions in Ukrainian families assigns childcare and household chores to women. Although modern Ukrainian families have largely moved away from this division, it still exists and thrives in societal thinking. Therefore, it is harder for women to assert their right to work where they want.


Are there positive factors that encourage women to enter so-called "male professions"? Yes, there are. Firstly, in Ukrainian families, despite the heavy household workload, the woman is often the "project manager." This has historical roots, as women are seen not only as the "keepers" of the home but also as the managers. Secondly, the economic situation and the war require new workers in areas previously dominated by men. For example, during discussions with representatives of large corporations, there were mentions of women working in mining, metallurgy, and the chemical industry. The Kyiv metro has launched a programme to train women as train operators.


However, this is not often openly discussed. Why? Society still views these professions as too physically demanding, even though modern technologies have made them comfortable for women. So a sense of guilt remains in society. Additionally, the fact that involving women in "male" professions in Ukraine is currently a necessity, rather than an achievement in the struggle for gender equality, adds a heavy emotional burden.

Photo: At the end of June, a Swedish delegation led by Johan Forssell (in center), Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, visited Kyiv. He took time to meet with graduates of the Reskilling Ukraine training course who are becoming truck drivers. Source: FB Scania Ukraine.



Women Can Do It All

Victoria Poseva, Reskilling Ukraine Project

Reskilling Ukraine is the first project of the Swedish non-profit organisation Beredskapslyftet being implemented in Ukraine. We are currently working with two retraining programmes:

  • OnTrack: retraining programme for truck drivers (category C)
  • BusDrive: retraining programme for bus drivers (category D)


The project operates with the following main focuses:

  • Training: Professional preparation.
  • Mentorship: Career and mentoring support for graduates and other women seeking employment.
  • Advocacy: Cooperation with government agencies and public organisations in the field of women's retraining and creating gender-balanced industries.
     

The Reskilling Ukraine project began in October 2023, aiming to help rebuild Ukraine despite the ongoing war. With many men, including drivers, going off to defend the country, there is a significant shortage of personnel in the transport and logistics sector. In Ukraine, the profession of a driver is still traditionally seen as "male," which complicates the situation for businesses, as well as for private and public transport. Hence, the idea of training women to drive trucks emerged. The project also focuses on preparing women to drive passenger buses.

To achieve this, the team approached Scania Ukraine with a partnership proposal. It turned out that Scania had previously implemented a similar programme to train women in Argentina. Studying their experience, we developed our programme. The project is funded by the Swedish government, Swedish private funds, and Swedish businesses.

 

We see society and women's readiness for retraining and mastering traditionally "male" professions. In the 8 months of the project's active phase, we received over 1,000 applications for the truck driver retraining programme (category C) and about 250 for the bus driver retraining programme (category D).

 

The motivation for women to learn a new profession varies: some want to help the state, others seek to change their field and start a new career. There are also women veterans and military personnel who, for various reasons, cannot return to their previous jobs. In Ukraine, about 70% of all unemployed people are women. We help them not only master a new profession but also provide career and mentoring support after completing their training and obtaining a new driver's licence.

 

From the experience of Sweden and Swedish society, we can confidently say that the concepts of "male" and "female" professions in this country are conditional. It is not surprising to see women driving dump trucks or heavy lorries; many women work as metro or train drivers. Many women in Sweden also work in construction. All these changes have been systematically supported by both the state and Swedish society. The example of Sweden and other European countries can prove that success is possible in Ukraine as well.

 

Following the launch of the heavy transport driver training project, the reaction from Ukrainians has been predominantly positive. Society is ready for change and recognises the relevance of the problem this project addresses. However, there were some comments based on gender stereotypes, such as "a woman is not a truck driver."

 

But we believe that in the modern world, women can perform all kinds of work on par with men. Automation of processes in enterprises ensures equal opportunities for both genders in the labour market. As one of our graduates, Oleksandra Makarova, said, “In the modern world, women can do everything that men can.”

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