When the Sexes Swap Roles; London Jobs: Equality: Gender Stereotypes Are Still with Us ... but We Find Four People Who Defy Them

Article excerpt

Byline: YVONNE SINGH

An Equal Opportunities Commission report has found that we are still stereotyped by our sex in the workplace: 99 per cent of building apprentices are male, 97 per cent of childcare trainees are female. But some brave souls do buck the trend. Yvonne Singh meets them ...

Male romantic novelist

Roger (aka Gill) Sanderson, describes himself as over 60, married twice with five children (all grownup). He lives in Liverpool.

I wouldn't say I was soppy. I'm tall, I lift weights, climb mountains, there's not much feminine about me. I am just in tune with my emotions and I can be romantic and spontaneous. But other men look at me with utter disbelief when I mention what I do.

I was a college lecturer for 30 years and after I retired I wanted to be a writer. I wrote an autobiographical novel, but it was rubbish.

Mills & Boon has a reputation for taking on new writers without an agent if they're good enough. And what could be a bigger change than writing romance?

I submitted my first novel under my wife's name, Gill Sanderson. I knew that if I sent it under the name Roger I'd have less of a chance of being published.

After five or six rejections I was finally taken on eight years ago.

Since then Mills & Boon has published 26 of my books. I came clean to my then editor, Elizabeth Johnson, at a Romantic Novelists' Association meeting soon after I had

At the controls: "It gives me a buzz when women greet me and shout, 'Girl power!'" says pilot Emma Chadwick Delivery man: midwife Alan Jenkins "It beats office work": plumber Ellen Cheesman

Female pilot

Emma Chadwick, 35, married since 1999, lives near Gatwick, west Sussex.

I get all the women-driver comments from passengers, such as "Can you park that thing?" It gets wearing. One stag party going to Ibiza even mistook me for a strippergram. I coldly told them that I was the captain. I suppose the traditional women's role is flight attendant, so most people are pretty shocked to hear my voice over the speakers.

But it gives me a buzz when women greet me and shout: "Girl power!"

I grew up with flying - my mother had a private pilot's licence and my father was a stunt pilot for the film industry. I rejected it initially. I wanted to be a film director, but after working in the industry as a teenager I changed my mind.

When I joined my local aviation club in Peterborough, I fell in love with flying. I was attracted to the freedom - it's a thrilling and exciting world up there.

I started to date my instructor - he became my husband and was my inspiration. He encouraged me to get my commercial licence. I was looking for a career and it made sense to do something I was good at.

There were two other females on the course, and the other trainee pilots respected us. The instructors would make the odd comment such as: "If women were supposed to fly, they would have painted the sky pink."

The beauty of flying is that it's not about physical strength - in fact, we were told women make better pilots, as they are not trying to be Top Gun. And flying is a multitasking job, something women are supposed to be better at than men.

After I passed my exam, I was sponsored by Leisure International, now Air 2000. I've been with them five years and pilot an Airbus. I fly passengers short-haul to package-holiday destinations, such as Spain, Turkey and the Canaries.

There's a misconception among women that you have to be technically minded to fly a plane, but you don't. It's a huge shame that more women don't choose it as a career. I did a talk at a girls' school and none of them had thought of being a pilot. Air 2000 has only four female pilots out of 400, but the climate is changing.

I am so glad that I stumbled on this career - there are few jobs that boast a spectacular view of the Alps at sunrise through the office window. …