“It’s a man’s-job.” The gender-categorization of jobs is a Middle East specialty. Drivers, butchers, pilots, Presidents, gas station attendants and many more professions have been seats saved for male candidates. However, the false perceptions that generate this are finally starting to break. One way we know how, is when we were driving down Nasr Road and we ran out of gas, only to find a female attendant filling our tank at the gas station around the corner!
Yes, you read it right. A few months ago, Total gas station decided to hire female attendants. They published an advertisement about it, and a lot of applicants came in. But why did they choose to divert from the usual route? “It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was encouraged by the fact that male attendants are mostly smokers and they’d have to leave the station for smoke or tea breaks because of course it is not permitted to smoke in the station. Females are easier to work with and they are often more committed,” the gas station supervisor, Mohamed Ibrahim, says. “We monitored their performance finding that their communication with the customers was so highly respectful that customers who come at night shifts and didn’t find the girls asked about them,” he adds.
Donia Mohamed, 22, has a diploma in business and has been occupying the position of gas station attendant for two months now. “I love it here, it pays well and females can do this job as good as any male would, sometimes even better!” she says. “The hardest part is having to stand for many hours, but you get used to it. My previous job was at a clothing store and I had to stand all the time there as well,” she adds.
As the idea of having female attendants fill people’s tanks is new, it has provoked diverse reactions. “Some see it as humiliating for a woman to expose herself to all sorts of annoyances and harassments from passersby. But others view it as any other honorable job with the bonus of equal opportunity for genders on the side. I personally believe that any respectful job that helps one afford a living, is an ethical job.”
“Females get more tips than males, because people are mostly very encouraging and supportive to us especially other women. We feel safer to them because sometimes men sneak looks or flirt whilst fueling tanks” she argues.
Donia is one of 4 girls that cover day shifts from 8AM to 5PM, and whilst a majority has been supportive of them, there were still a few bumps on the road. “I get a lot of numbers from customers, sometimes they write it on money but I don’t tell anyone about it, instead I handle it myself. I am not here to cause problems or troubles. I only want to work,” she reveals.
Ingie Badr is a Thanaweya Amma student that works as an attendant 3 days a week. This ambitious young dreamer wants to have her own import and export office after she graduates. “After my father’s death, I decided to work behind my mother’s back. She was really worried about me but I wanted to help her out and earn my own living. Eventually she found out, it was hard for her and she told me that it was a male-job but she was comforted when she came here and met everyone,” Ingie says.
“We are told a lot of inappropriate words, sometimes I’d be working and someone would try to hold my hands but I know how to put limits for everyone. To work here, I know that I have to have the strength of a thousand men or one passionate determined woman,” she adds.
When asking female driver Hana Hawash, whom we met at the station, about what she thinks of this initiative, she said “I think it is a huge step forward to have females work here. It is living proof that there is no job that women can’t handle.”