Spotlight on Women in Transit: Marika Fraser, TTC
With its dedication to equality in the transit industry, CUTA created the 'Spotlight on Women in Transit' series to bring forward the experiences of diverse female leaders and inspire a new generation of transit professionals to include many more female voices.
The 'Spotlight on Women in Transit' series has also featured a video interview with Mary Proc, Vice President of Customer Service at Metrolinx, and accompanying article in CUTA's Summer edition of Urban Mobility Forum Magazine.
Spotlight on Women in Transit:
Interview with Marika Fraser,
Diversity and Outreach Consultant, Employment Services,
Human Resources at the Toronto Transit Commission
Could you tell us about how you found yourself in the transit industry?
I started at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as a summer student employee 25 years ago while attending the University of Toronto. I had accompanied a friend who wanted to apply for a job at the TTC. I figured rather than just sitting there and watching her fill out the application, I should complete one as well. I was contacted for an interview and unfortunately, she wasn’t. I didn’t plan to work in the industry. It happened by fluke. I started as a Wheel Trans Reservationist where I was responsible for booking door-to-door trips for customers with disabilities. I was promoted to a Schedule Writer position where I created the routes for our buses. I understand why I got the job. At the time, I was working in two part-time jobs while in school: UPS call centre, where I booked parcel pick-ups and deliveries and in retail. The opportunity to work at the TTC during the summer was an opportunity to actually start a career where my transferrable skills, experiences and education were a good fit for a public transportation company. I was always in customer service based jobs while in school and my major included business and psychology courses. I moved around the organization into many progressive positions in a number of departments including: Administrative support in the Vehicle Engineering Department, Database Technician in the Safety Department and since 2003, a number progressive positions in the Employment Services section of the Human Resources Department.
" If you have ever considered a career in the transit industry, pursue it. Don’t be intimidated by perceived obstacles or stereotypes about the industry. " - Marika Fraser
What do you think are some major challenges for women seeking a career in transit?
Many are unaware of the variety of positions available. Job seekers often assume that jobs in the public transportation industry are limited to the frontline positions that include the employees who drive the company vehicles. They fail to see that there are many positions that work behind the scenes and involve strategy, planning and development. Further, some women don’t believe that jobs driving transit vehicles or working in the trades or semi-skilled trades is an obtainable goal. Many transit properties are facing the challenge of attracting women to these traditionally male dominated fields in the industry. The TTC has been making progress to attract more women to the organization by increasing employment outreach efforts and successfully increasing the representation of women in management and executive levels through strategic succession planning. The TTC encourages women to apply to job opportunities and policies are in place to support retention.
Do you think that having more women as speakers can influence gender diversity in the transit industry? What are your thoughts on encouraging women to attend a CUTA Conference?
Having more women speakers would be helpful. But I believe it would also be effective to encourage your member agencies to inform their employees of CUTA and how they can be involved. Female CUTA members could act as CUTA ambassadors to communicate the benefits of participating in CUTA events to employees in their respective organizations.
Is there a message you would like to share with aspiring women in the transit industry?
If you have ever considered a career in the transit industry, pursue it. Don’t be intimidated by perceived obstacles or stereotypes about the industry. The transit industry is growing and there are numerous career opportunities for women to consider.