Belinda Holland chuckles at the suggestion she is breaking new ground when it comes to gender-based roles at Marine Atlantic.
While she is currently the only female working as a stevedore and fifth-wheel driver at the Port aux Basques terminal, she points out that she’s not the first woman who has ever been hired for that position.
“I do know a few years back that she did get the position, but I think she left the company shortly after,” notes Holland.
It was in May 2018 that Holland was offered a job, and she subsequently completed training that allows her to serve in several roles. But even before joining Marine Atlantic, Holland took some initiative to secure her dream job by attending a private college.
“I heard they were short on fifth-wheel (drivers), but at the time when I applied just the stevedore option was open,” recounts Holland. “I went in and took my heavy equipment so that would give me an advantage.”
Holland says attending college wasn’t required, but she was aware that having experience with heavy equipment would give her a head start for further opportunities within the company.
The strategy worked, and shortly after signing on, Holland was able to train as a fifth-wheel driver, which is now her primary job function. She also works as a stevedore or drives the shuttle bus.
“I love it,” says Holland repeatedly. When she’s given an option for her shift duties, she has a clear preference. “I always choose fifth-wheel. I just love doing it.”
Holland says the work is very challenging, but that is precisely why she finds it so appealing.
“Taking those drops aboard, you’ve got to be putting them in some tight places, and I just enjoy that type of work,” she said.
Holland also says when it comes to the work environment, her gender is in no way a factor. She says her co-workers have been very supportive, right from the start.
“I was one of the boys,” recalls Holland about her immediate acceptance from her colleagues. “They were very helpful and there were times I wasn’t quite sure what to do, they would give me hints and show me little techniques to make it easier for me, and if there was something that I needed help with, they were all there to give me a hand. They’ve been wonderful.”
Holland hopes to see more women consider working in traditionally male-dominated roles.
“We can tackle anything we set our minds to, and as far as traditional male gender roles, that is changing,” she said. “It is changing, and more women are getting involved in the trades, and it’s proven that they are really good at what they do.”
Holland says it’s not just women who are challenging traditional gender based jobs either. Although she is less than a year into her new job, she has witnessed firsthand the company’s training opportunities available to any employee.
“It goes both ways,” insists Holland. “That’s the thing about Marine Atlantic. They train you for everything.”
Holland says she hasn’t yet figured how she will spend International Women’s Day, but she intends to give it some thought.
International Women’s Day is recognized each year on March 8.