“When I first joined the job as a truck driver,” said Lorelyn Dagus, a single mother of six, “a co-worker told me that ‘women should just stay at home.’”
Such reactions are common in the Philippines, and many parts of Asia where women are expected to take on jobs that seem ‘suitable’ for their gender.
“Many people find it hard to believe that I work as a truck driver, because they believe it’s only a man’s job,” said Sheryl Lago, another lady who had been working as a truck driver for nine years.
To be fair, truck driving is not easy. It entails long hours, cramped spaces, and absolutely no one else for company. A high level of mental and physical endurance is required.
With a job like this, the day often starts as early as 4am before the sun rises. The early hours are no excuse to slip with regards to maintaining precision and high safety standards at all times. Not to mention, it is vastly more challenging to operate a heavy vehicle, as compared to driving a car.
Hence, it is understandable why people might believe a job as a truck driver is not meant for women. However, several strong women from Coca-Cola have been consistently proving people wrong.
Take Lorelyn, who needs to earn money for her six children, as a single mother. She used to work as a housemaid in Manila, but when she saw the opportunity to diversify her skills and earn more by working as a Delivery Service Representative, she applied for the job readily.
Given how resources like time and money are often hard to come by for single mothers, it makes it even more difficult for them to upgrade themselves. Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines Inc (CCBPI)—the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the Philippines— knocks down that barrier by providing free truck driving training to their employees.
“Now that I have this job, I am able to provide for my family. I have been able to buy land and build a home for my family. And for that, I am extremely grateful to CCBPI,” said Lorelyn.
Lorelyn is not the only woman to benefit from employment at Coca-Cola. Meet Mary Ramor, a single mother of one, who works as a forklift operator in the Coca-Cola warehouses.
When asked why she applied for this job in the first place, Mary said “As a single mother I want the best for my family, especially my daughter.”
Given that the job is male-dominated, and operating heavy machinery was initially out of Mary’s comfort zone, one of her biggest challenges occurred during the training phase.
“On our job training, we had to prove that we could execute our tasks in an accurate, timely and safe manner. I was nervous about the assessment but I ended up having the highest score out of all the forklift drivers!” she said, surprising her colleagues and proving the point that hard work pays off.
While some people look at the female heavy machine operators of Coca-Cola as anomalies or outliers in society, the truth is that they are beacons of empowerment for women.
“Whenever I’m on the road,” said Lorelyn, “My fellow drivers of the opposite sex are in awe. I see the disbelief on their faces when they see that women can do jobs that have been stereotyped as manly jobs.
“When that happens, it warms my heart because I am able to make them believe in what we can do as women, as truck drivers, as people,” she said.