Women in Male-Dominated Roles‘I would love to see more women on building sites.’

As heard on The Ray D'Arcy Show

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It’s girl power all the way on The Ray D’Arcy Show as Brenda O’Donoghue meets a panel of women working in traditionally male-dominated roles.  Tiler Ciara Jordan, bus driver Theresa Lydon and pilot Lisa Cusack share their stories of the road, or the air route, less travelled.  Theresa recalls the day she passed her test.

“I’m a bus driver with Dublin bus for 35 years.  I started with the company in 1984 as a bus conductor for 11 years and I went on.  The day I passed my driving test was absolutely brilliant.  The men, when I went back to the garage, were delighted for me and delighted that I’d passed the test…  I meet loads of people on the bus.  It’s absolutely lovely and it’s great working with the men.  It’s like one big family.  We’re treated all the same.”

Ciara describes her path into tiling, which originally had her family and friends thinking she was “mad”, but they soon saw she’d found her dream job.

“I left school in 1998 and I didn’t really know what to do.  All the lads who were making a few bob were carpenters and plumbers and I just said, right, that’s what I’m going to do!  I got the list from FÁS, narrowed it down to painting or tiling and said, I’m going to give that a go.”

A word of caution though…

“Don’t become a tiler if you don’t like wolf whistles!  You have to be able to have a bit of craic and you have to get on with the lads, that’s a hugely important thing.  You can’t work on a building site if you’re easily offended.  I absolutely love it.  I’m more at home on a building site than I am in an office scenario.  I really enjoy my job every day.”

After thirteen years as a tiler, Ciara now works as an interior designer and project manager as well, but she still hasn’t seen many women on building sites which she feels is a lost opportunity.  “Women are great at keeping the calm.  They’re great at finding solutions.”

For pilot Lisa, her dream was a lifetime in the making.

“I grew up out in Lucan.  We’re right beside Weston Airport… I used to go up all the time and have a look at the planes.  I did my first lesson and I just absolutely loved it.  I got a lesson every year off Santa Claus.”

Her road to the runway was not without obstacles.  After studying Theoretical Physics, there was still a long way to go.

“It took about ten years from leaving school.  If you have the money, it’s about €100,000 which is substantial!…  It was a long road for me.  I worked and saved up myself.  I did my own training and I got sponsored by Aer Lingus eventually.”

10% of Aer Lingus pilots are female, which is one of the highest figures in the world.  Similarly, Dublin Bus has a substantial amount of female drivers, 98 in all.  Theresa praises Dublin Bus’ women-centred open days and would encourage other traditionally male-dominated businesses to do the same.

“I think a huge problem is that women don’t think of going into these jobs,” says Ciara.  Lisa completely agrees with this.  It’s an attitude she frequently encounters when she travels to schools to talk about her work.

“The biggest thing I say to them is don’t be afraid to be a little bit different…  It was only when I started going into the schools that girls approached me at the end of the classes saying, I didn’t even know girls could be pilots and stuff like that that really shocked me.”

One thing’s for sure: these are three women who love what they do.  Ultimately, as Ciara says,

 “It doesn’t really matter whether you’re male or female.  You just have to prove that you’re capable of doing your job and once people know that, you’re fine.”     

Click here for the full conversation.

© The Listener 2017

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