South Otago frontline women inspire
Reporter MARY-JO TOHILL talks to three women in frontline emergency services.
Stacey Verheul is a maintenance supervisor for Fulton Hogan in Balclutha, and is Balclutha Volunteer Fire Brigade’s first female station officer.
She reckons women are working their way up the ranks. Stacey has been a brigade member for eight years and is proudly Balclutha born and bred.
‘‘When I was little I wanted to be a dancer but then got hooked on graphic design and maths when I hit high school.
‘‘From this I decided I wanted to be an architect until my dad talked me out of it.’’ She went on to get engineering and highway technology qualifications, but wanted to help her community. This means she is on call 24/7.
‘‘I am lucky to have an awesome partner who just rolls his eyes as I rush out the door when my pager goes. Somehow he sleeps through the pager when it goes off at night (I really don’t know how, as it makes a horrible noise) but he is very accepting and understanding about my role in the brigade. Ultimately it is really about having a balance and in the end family does come first.’’
It can be tough working in usually male-dominated roles.
‘‘I have a double whammy as I work in a male dominated industry and I volunteer for an organisation that has a similar makeup of male versus female. We face a lot of challenges but it is about proving yourself and knowing when to stick to your guns. Women can do anything they put their minds to, so why let others tell you what you can and can’t do? I sure don’t and that has attributed to where I am today.’’
Women can have an advantage, as they can seem more approachable in high-stress situations.
Her advice to young women in choosing front-line jobs is to not let gender or what others think define what you can and can’t do.
‘‘If you want to do something, just go for it. We can do anything we set our minds to and it is up to us to make it happen. Careers such as mine can be daunting. I have plenty of ‘oh sh...’ moments when I worry about making the right decision or get nervous being in such a key role, but I learn from every callout I go to and I have an amazing group of mates who are willing to part with advice if I get stuck.’’
Balclutha Fire Brigade station officer Stacey Verheul.