Moscow metro hires first female train drivers in modern history

The Moscow metro has hired female drivers for the first time in its recent history, following changes in Russian legislation prohibiting women from many professions.

The Russian capital’s transport system, which oversees the sprawling metro network, said in a statement that “the first female electric train drivers in modern history started working for the Moscow metro.”

Built in the Soviet era as a communist showpiece, the metro’s trains were historically operated by men because the work was listed on the government’s register of jobs deemed harmful to women’s health.

The ban on access for women to many professions was widely criticised and a labour ministry decree in September last year cut the number of exclusively male professions from 456 to about 100.

The justification that driving metro trains was dangerous because it meant being underground for long periods came under fire because the metro also employs women as cleaners, cashiers and escalator monitors.

The Moscow transport department said that, because of the automation of mechanical processes, operating trains was no longer “associated with heavy physical exertion”.

The previous register was approved in 2000 and banned women from mining and metalworking jobs, but also from positions such as bus driver, sailor, parachutist, auto mechanic, and even maker of wind instruments. The new register opens many of these roles to females.

Russian Railways, the country’s railway monopoly, previously said it would also begin employing female train drivers in 2021.