When the Sexes Swap Roles; Gender Stereotypes Are Still with Us ... but We Find Four People Who Defy Them
Singh, Yvonne, The Evening Standard (London, England)
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 Gender stereotypes been accepted. I strolled up to her and said: "You know Gill Sanderson, that author you've just taken on? She's changed sex." Elizabeth didn't bat an eyelid, she seemed quite happy.
I'm still the only male writing for Mills & Boon and I earn an adequate living. I specialise in medical romance - three of my children are in the medical profession, which gives me an insight into what is involved.
My romantic heroes have never been modelled on me, but I pinch bits from my background and knowledge. A lot of my heroes are mountaineers, sailors or canoeists like me.
I don't think it's difficult to get into the female psyche - 99.5 per cent of my readers are female, but when writing romance you need a red-blooded male as well as a responsive woman.
Love is probably one of the most universally experienced emotions - I think most men can empathise with what a woman is feeling.
When I meet women romance writers, they make me feel welcome and don't resent me. I hope more men will be inspired by what I do and join my profession.
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. …