Above gender barriers - Vernon breaking norms as female crane operator

September 04, 2020
Donna Marie Vernon is one of two female crane operators at the Kingston Freeport Terminal.
Donna Marie Vernon is one of two female crane operators at the Kingston Freeport Terminal.
Donna Vernon
Donna Vernon

From an early age, Donna Marie Vernon was known to her community of St John's Road as 'Miss Green Boy'. Today, she is ignoring gender barriers in the workplace as she is one of the two women working as crane operators at the Kingston Freeport Terminal.

Vernon said while a student at the Spanish Town Secondary School (now Spanish Town High), she ventured in career choices that many would have overlooked as fit for a woman.

"I remember the first time I got the paper to choose the vocation subjects you want to do in grade nine and I ticked off my choices on that paper," she said. "For my first choice, I put auto mechanic, second choice was electrical installation and machine shop, and third choice was woodwork.

"When I brought it up to my teacher, she threw back the paper to me and said, 'Why don't you read the paper and choose the ones that you want?'

Not the norm

"In those days, women didn't do those types of jobs that I picked. I was supposed to do typing but I didn't want to do that. So when she threw back the paper to me, I sat down and looked at it. I said I'm not changing it because this is all I want. I took back the paper and I stood up to her and said those are my options," she said firmly.

This persistence set the foundation for her to pursue her passion as a marine engineer, then to evolve as a tractor/trailer driver, and a Jamaica Urban Transit Company driver. But she didn't stop there as she gained employment at the Kingston Terminal first as a stacker operator, a truck operator and crane operator.

Vernon applied five times to be a crane operator, a job deemed fit for a man. She finally 'get her buss' in 2018, even though in previous instances there was a sign posted reading 'No Females Need Apply'. Donna Marie was not deterred.

"It's my hope to change other females' lives," she said. "Not everybody in the inner city or the ghetto has the brains to go to university or college; you have to be willing to work hard. I've lived in the ghetto for over 30 years, so I know a lot of brilliant people are in there who just want to see one of them do this and get out."

Even though Vernon has invested 15 years working at the Kingston Terminal, she has other passion as a linguist. But for now, she is comfortably enjoying her space as a crane operator, her envied office in the sky.

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