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Confidence abounding

Tinui volunteer fire force rural controller Donna Schofield. PHOTO/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

In honour of International Women’s Day [March 8], SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI talks to some of Wairarapa’s inspiring women. Fire and Emergency rural controller Donna Schofield talks about staying cool, calm, and collected.

Donna Schofield has been with the Tinui volunteer rural fire force since 2015.

In 2018, the rural controller became the first female in Wairarapa to be appointed to the role.

Although five of the force’s 22 members were female, there had only been two women on the team when she joined, and Schofield said numbers were “definitely increasing”.

“I’ve got other women that are interested in joining at the moment,” she said.

Women brought diversity and different strengths to the team.

“I think we’ve got to have a bit more determination,” Schofield said.

“I know I wanted to prove myself more as an equal.

“If you have to work harder to achieve your goals, as I believe women do in male-dominated work, it’s more rewarding, satisfying and you gain respect for it once you’ve proved yourself.”

Schofield has worked in many such fields and said the challenge was why she was drawn to these jobs.

“I work on a farm, I’ve driven trucks, I’ve worked in a concrete plant,” she said, “I like to have my teeth into something, some challenge.”

While she was Wairarapa’s first female rural controller, Schofield was not the first in her family to join the force.

“I was actually pregnant at the time, and when my husband’s pager would go off, I would want to go out too,” she said, “Just wanting to help people.”

Being a firefighter could be demanding, but being a female did not add much additional pressure.

“There’s a lot of support, there’s a lot of really cool women,” she said.

“I haven’t had any challenges as a female firefighter. My crew is so supportive and we’ve really grown as a team.

“It’s hot, it’s dirty, it’s hard work, but it’s really rewarding.”

One of her team’s accomplishments was saving the school next to a housefire in Whareama.

“We were all pretty stoked that we were able to do that and to make the call quickly to be able to get in and be able to save it.”

Schofield did not feel afraid when attending a fire, and said the key was “confidence and competence”.

“We’ve done our training, we’ve assessed our safety and the situation before we’re going in,” she said.

“When we’re on our way there, we’re going through the process of what we will see when we get there, how we might deal with it, who will do what. It addresses a bit of the adrenaline.”

Over the years, she had learned to apply this strategy to other aspects of her life.

“I do slow things down, take a minute to stop and think.”

As well as being the rural controller, Schofield worked as a pharmacy technician and a farmer, while also raising her two children.

“There’s that saying; if you want something done, you ask a busy person to do it – because busy people get stuff done.”

When asked how she found time for everything, her answer was to “just put it on the list”.

Schofield was particularly influenced by her grandmother, who she described as a “very strong woman”. If she could give any advice to other women, it would be to believe in themselves.

“Set your mind to something and get out there and do it.”

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