First-person perspectives on the world of work
Photo: Nozim Kalandarov
Women in management

When a woman becomes boss in a man's world

Problems always arise when a woman forces her way into a man’s world. Men will wonder “what is she doing here, why doesn’t she cook or sew?”

This is especially true in Tajikistan, which is a country with certain traditions and family rules.

Tajikistan map

Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan.

© Wikimedia Commons

So, when I launched Atlas Taxi, Good Taxi - the only taxi service in Dushanbe with a woman as its head, people told me: “You are mad.”

I graduated as an economist, had worked at the Ministry of Economy and Development and later as a senior sales manager, then worked on a World Bank project that provided assistance to low-income families.

Although I never stopped my professional development when I got married and had children, becoming a director and a business owner would have been impossible.

But seven years ago, my marriage broke up.  I was alone with three children to care for. I wanted to prove to myself and my children that I was able to achieve whatever I wanted, even in a male-dominated sphere. I was father and mother all in one person. This was probably what prompted me to take the risk.

I previously worked for a couple of taxi companies so had experience in the transport industry. But my problem was not getting my company going. My problems started when I put a team of drivers together because it was hard for the male drivers to accept orders from a woman. When I gave them instructions they would protest loudly or simply keep silent or pretend they didn’t hear anything. It was hard for me to deal with. I feared that I would be unable to manage this situation or communicate my development plans to my team.

I was dealing with a lot of stress. I was fearful of competition because there were so many taxi services here in Dushanbe. I had taken a risk to launch a taxi company while there were already ten such companies out there.

Takhmina stands in a garage and talks to a car mechanic, who stands below her in a vehicle inspection pit.  Beside them is a taxi with its hood open, which is about to be checked before going into service.

All of our taxi drivers’ cars get checked by a mechanic before they head out for the day.

© Nozim Kalandarov

I was helped by a course “Company and Idea” for women entrepreneurs, based on the International Labour Organization’s Start and Improve Your Business programme. The mentors taught us how to run a business correctly. So, after listening and talking to them I convinced myself that I was not ‘just a woman’, not ‘just a female manager’. I was a director. This approach helps to change the mindset of women who supervise men’s work in a man’s world. It obliges you to be fair, practice what you preach, be honest to colleagues and employees. Then you will be listened to without being labelled ‘hysterical’.

Takhmina sits at the head of a meeting table with masked taxi drivers, all men, looking on. Behind them is a giant poster of Tajikistan’s President, Emomali Rahmon, standing in a crowd of children.

New drivers attend training on company rules and culture, relationships with customers and the programmes we offer.

© Nozim Kalandarov

I started out with a team of five. Today we have 12 people at head office and more than 300 drivers. We have a mobile application for both customers and drivers. No such thing existed 5 years ago.

All my staff have an official employment contract and working hours in accordance with the labour code. They are entitled to annual, sick and unpaid leave. 

The drivers are our partners. We hold monthly competitions to encourage them to provide better services.This helps them develop a positive attitude and an understanding that they are part of the team.

Taxi company director, Takhmina Bakhronova, examines the documents of a taxi driver who stands next to her.

We trust our drivers to take care of our passengers. The reputation of the company depends on it. With a new taxi driver, I notice how he behaves, how he answers my questions, whether he responds aggressively.

© Nozim Kalandarov

Why do I have “Good Taxi” in the company name?  Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to help children in need – especially children whose families do not have the resources to provide them with clothes, food or education. When I launched Atlas Taxi, Good Taxi, I decided my company would always stand by vulnerable families. 

Through our mobile application, and our Facebook and Instagram pages, we invite our customers to participate in our charitable activities.

When I launched Atlas Taxi, Good Taxi, I decided my company would always stand by vulnerable families. 

Takhmina BakhronovaEntrepreneur

We provide food and help organize celebrations for children from low-income families on New Year’s Eve and on Children’s Day on 1 June. We’ve also helped families prepare their children for school by providing uniforms, stationery supplies and backpacks. 

Once a month, residents can contact our call centre and ask us to collect clothes they want to donate. My drivers collect these clothes free of charge and bring them to our office. Over two years we have built up a fairly extensive list of low-income families who come here to select clothes for themselves or their children.

A person in a Santa costume holds a gift and stands next to a bed. In the bed lies a small child with a disability. The child smiles broadly at Santa. A woman wearing a headscarf looks on.

This is from a New Year’s charitable event we organised for children living with a disability. All my adult life I have participated in projects that help children from vulnerable families.

© Takhmina Bakhronova

2020 was difficult for everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We lost 90 per cent of our orders. Our workers had to take unpaid leave. No words can express how difficult it was. At one time I thought everything would collapse and I would be out of business.

Then we launched a delivery service to bring medicines, clothes and food to patients. The delivery service saved us to some extent. We also partnered with other taxi companies, so together we were able to survive.

2020 was difficult for everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We lost 90 per cent of our orders.  We launched a delivery service and partnered with other taxi companies to survive.

Takhmina BakhronovaEntrepreneur

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined the situation I am in now: having my own business, being a female boss or 'raisa' as they say here in Tajikistan. But I said to myself: do not fear your own ideas, and you will realize them. 

I know many girls who can move mountains, but stereotypes and fear of what people and society will say, will sometimes stand in their way. But every girl, every woman should believe in herself. 

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