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First IAA female engineer says women should not be afraid to go for this career choice.

07 Mar 2022

Communications Engineer was one of 9 females in a class of 110 at college.

For Maeve Collins, a Communications Engineer at the IAA, her 28-year career has provided some great challenges.

She was the first female engineer to join the Irish Aviation Authority in 1994, having qualified as an electronics engineer from Trinity College.

On International Women’s Day, her advice to any girl with an interest in any career, irrespective of whether it has been perceived as a ‘man’s’ job, is that they should go for it.

“If you are capable of doing the job and have the necessary qualifications, your gender is irrelevant.”

Maeve works with the VHS communications domain team, which provides systems that enable Air Traffic Controllers to communicate with aircraft flying in Irish airspace, as well as landing and taking off from Irish airports.

There are three other engineering domains or departments in the IAA: flight data processing, which provides the technology for processing the information from aircraft, airports, and air traffic towers; engineering for radar services; and navigation aids required to maintain safety.

Communications is responsible for the transmitters and receivers that allow contact with the aircraft and quality telephone lines that allow the Air Traffic Controllers to communicate with other air traffic control towers in Ireland and abroad. While many would imagine being the only female in IAA engineering to be daunting, Maeve says that she did not find it a problem.

“Of the 110 engineers in my class in Trinity, I was one of only nine women. Thankfully, there was no bias. We were all students focused on qualifying so when I started in the IAA it was not that different.

“I found the other engineers very welcoming and helpful. I suppose for them, having a women join the engineers was a novelty at first. And there were a few of the older guys who didn’t know what to do with me. However, we worked together as a team and continue to do so to this day,” she said.

Engineering has advanced beyond recognition over the past 30 years. New technology has changed aviation and air traffic management, improving safety and flight efficiency. All IAA engineers must keep up with these changes and the new EU Standards and Regulations.

Maeve said that when she was studying for her Leaving Certificate exams, she did not quite understand what engineering involved. She was good at Maths and the career guidance counsellors suggested that she look at studying engineering. She put this on her CAO form and got a place in Trinity College.

“Our class in Manor House in Raheny was lucky to have two great Maths teachers at the time. Out of a class of 150 girls, sixty-one of us studied Honours Maths. That love of Maths continued in our family. My daughter Jill also qualified as a mechanical engineer and now works with Intel,” she said.

While she is disappointed that there are not more female engineers in the workplace, Maeve said there was a need to educate young female students about engineering, so more can compete for these jobs when they arise.

“It is only in recent times that the balance between men and women studying engineering is now almost 50/50. I am confident that we will see more female engineers qualifying and taking on the challenges of this great career. So, I urge women to go for their career choices,” she said.

Maeve has had many challenging projects in her career, including being part of the IAA team involved in the design, tendering and installation of the technology in the new Air Traffic Control Tower at Dublin Airport.