Cornwall Life meets three women who are at the top of their professional game

PUBLISHED: 14:29 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

Ginny Harris, Pilot

Ginny Harris, Pilot

In this July issue, Cornwall Life meets three women who are at the top of their professional game

Cornwall Life talks to three women who have achieved success in a male-dominated environment

Ginny Harris, Pilot

Female pilots are still rare - the national average is only 3% - so in working for the Cornish airline Skybus, Ginny Harris is breaking the mould. "Although I'm the only female pilot here, it makes absolutely no difference. The work and effort involved in becoming a professional pilot is the same regardless of gender," Ginny says.

Based at Newquay Cornwall Airport and Land's End Aerodrome, Ginny has been working for the airline since February 2008 and flying since May, and says she can't think of a better job. "You get amazing views from a plane and I'm flying to and from such beautiful parts of the world. When you approach the Isles of Scilly, it looks almost tropical at times - I'm so lucky to be doing a job where every day is different and the views are spectacular."

The 37-year-old First Officer, who is originally from Berkshire and is based in Mitchell, flies all of the routes operated by Skybus including to the Isles of Scilly from Land's End, as well as to Cardiff and St Brieuc. She worked for a small private aircraft company before Skybus, took her theory exams in Oxford, then her practical flying exams at Blackbushe Aviation in Surrey and Professional Air Training in Bournemouth. "I had to work extremely hard to pass my 14 theory tests and pilot training, but it was satisfying and a huge relief when I achieved my goal in 2005."

During the peak summer season there are ten Captains and six First Officers working for Skybus, as well as an extra two Captains working on the Islander aircraft. Not only is it hands-on in the cockpit, but with no cabin crew on board the aircraft to look after the passengers, it is down to the pilots themselves to give safety briefings. Ginny explains: "With other airlines, they are operating much larger aircraft and the contact pilots have with the passengers is relatively minimal but when you're working for Skybus and flying Twin Otters or Islander aircraft it's a much closer relationship with the customer and that's what we love."

During her spare time Ginny flies aerobatics for fun, goes sailing, plays tennis and keeps fit. She adds, "Landings on the Isles of Scilly are the most demanding. You have to cope with the changing weather patterns in the South West and on the islands, which tend to have a microclimate of their own. It really improves your pilot handling skills and is the best type of flying experience any First Officer could wish for."

Jackie Coutts, Insurance Inspector

Being a good listener, having a sense of humour and an outgoing personality are three traits that Jackie Coutts says are needed to be an effective Insurance Inspector working in the depths of rural Cornwall. "There are many characters, particularly in farming, that I come across every day but that is what makes my job so exciting," says Jackie.

The 39-year-old from Praa Sands is one of a handful of female inspectors working for insurance firm Cornish Mutual. Her patch covers much of West Cornwall including Camborne, Penzance, Helston and the Isles of Scilly. She adds: "One minute you can be up to your knees in mud next to a herd of cows and the next walking across a golf course discussing claim forms or premiums. You need to understand customers and be able to communicate with all types of people."

Cornish Mutual was founded by a group of farmers in 1903 and is still owned by its members and serves rural communities throughout Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Jackie adds: "Both my parents were farmers in Stithians and having grown up with two brothers and been part of the young farming community, which is mostly made up of males, I tend to take things in my stride, so being a woman in this business is never a problem."

She has been working for the company for over five years and has been in insurance for over 22 years. Jackie is married with a two-year-old son and enjoys a round of golf in her spare time. She left school and started as an office junior, working her way up through the ranks. She believes in the future of farming in Cornwall, despite current difficulties, and is equally optimistic about Cornish Mutual. "It's moving with the times and I love working for the company."

Karen Sumser-Lupson, Harbour Commissioner

Karen Sumser-Lupson is the only female Harbour Commissioner in Falmouth. "Maritime has been a male domain for centuries but this is starting to change," says Karen. She has been working for the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners for two years and has lived in Cornwall for over twenty. "Falmouth for me is my homeland port and I consider my family to be very much a part of the Cornish community. My background is in maritime safety and security."

Falmouth Harbour is run as a Trust Port, which is an independent statutory body, commercially run to reinvest any profits back into the Port. Falmouth Harbour Commissioners is a Board of Trustees and was set up to look after the Harbour.

Karen has many ties with the South West having studied at Cornwall College and the University of Plymouth, but her busy schedule and her other role as European Maritime Project Manager for the Marine Institute means she travels extensively. "It is quite demanding but also very rewarding and my biggest challenge is juggling my diary! I'm often away in Europe and further afield but I always prioritise my commitments with the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners."

For the last three years Karen has been working on a project with the aim of creating a centre of maritime excellence for Europe. "I'm honoured that my skills can be used within the community and I'm proud that I've been given the opportunity to develop such a good network of colleagues and friends," she says.

So what sort of person does it take to become a Harbour Commissioner? "All the board members have different skills," Karen says. "I would say you have to be dedicated, committed, and adaptable, and have a strong knowledge of maritime, enterprise or the marine environment."

Karen, who lives in Mitchell, near Newquay, adds: "Our team in Falmouth is professional, dynamic and focused on the concerns and aspirations for the wellbeing of our port."

Outside of work, 48-year-old Karen enjoys spending time with her young family. "They're very supportive of my work and have all been extremely patient over the years. We like to enjoy the Cornish beaches."

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