“I thought, if it’s something I want to do, I’m not going to let the fact that it’s a more male-dominated industry get in my way.”

That attitude helped Ciara Rooney become one of the few fully-qualified female electricians in Northern Ireland – an achievement that resonated in particular on International Women’s Day.

Ciara found an interest in the industry through a family connection.

“My cousin had been speaking about how much he enjoyed his work and I thought, ‘I’ll give it a go’,” she explains.

“I did some work experience and I gained a lot of knowledge and practical experience and stuck with it.”

During her studies, Ciara says she was very much outnumbered as she was the only woman in her year group.

That’s not unusual, according to electrical regulator NICEIC.

The body is hoping to change that trend through a bursary scheme for female electricians, which is being launched on Friday, International Women’s Day.

‘Like my brothers’

A ‘circuit breaker’ in her industry, Ciara says she was used to being around a lot of men as she grew up living with four brothers.

“At the start of the course, the boys tried to get a grasp of what they could and couldn’t say around you,” says Ciara.

“But after a few months, we were all friends and it was just normal.”

Even after she qualified, Ciara says she never had any issues with male colleagues not accepting her.

“I used to work with the same squad and we would travel together, from job to job – they were like my brothers,” she says.

“The odd time on site, you’d be dressed in yellow gear with the hood up and somebody would turn and say: ‘Here mate, can you show me where the office is?’

“It would be funny then when I turned round and they realised.”

From sport to sparks

Niamh Lynch, from County Monaghan but working in Newry, says she “fell into the job” of an electrician.

“I had initially gone to college to do sports science and I just didn’t like it,” she says.

“I was doing a lot of GAA training at the time and I had planned to go to America, but the manager of my team said he didn’t want to see me go, so he found me a job.”

At the beginning, Niamh says she felt she had to work hard to prove herself.

“Some, not all, but some of the male employers didn’t think I would be up for it, or that I would actually stick with it when it came to asking for apprenticeships,” she says.

“But when they saw my work, that changed.”

Like Ciara, Niamh was the only girl to study the trade in her year.

“It’s a really interesting industry with many different aspects and avenues to it,” she adds.

“A lot of people perceive construction and trades as being dirty and hard work – it can be, but it’s not always like that.”

Hoping for change

Now a training assessor at the Northern Regional College, Ciara hopes to encourage more women to get involved in the industry.

“I couldn’t recommend it highly enough as a career – and I wouldn’t let anyone or thing put you off it,” she said.

“I haven’t seen another girl on a course yet, but hopefully that will change in the near future. It’s a fantastic trade to have and you can travel anywhere in the world with it, so it’s certainly worth looking at apprenticeships.

“Come in, qualify and make the best life you can with the trade.”

This article was originally published by the BBC, you can read it here.