More Island women taking up amateur radio

More and more P.E.I. women are getting their voices on amateur radio. The hobby, known as ham radio, has been traditionally dominated by men.

'What I love is being able to talk to people around the world that I don't know'

Amateur radio operator Therese Mair explains the hobby to Julieanne Scales. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Therese Mair dons headphones while her fingers fiddle with a dial, searching for a voice through the static.

She goes on air from her home-made station in Georgetown, P.E.I., with her call letters VY2TAM everyday and chats with strangers. 

"What I love is being able to talk to people around the world that I don't know," she said. "I just randomly talked to somebody in Croatia this morning."

Mair is new to amateur radio, commonly known as ham radio. But she's already showing other women the ins and outs of the hobby at an annual event being held in Charlottetown

To know that there are more women in this as well is encouraging.- Julieanne Scales

Julieanne Scales, 20, came to the event hoping to learn more about the hobby. She said seeing other women operators makes it more attractive. 

"To know that there are more women in this as well is encouraging and I'd definitely like to take part."

People talking to people

Ham radio operator Brent Taylor tests an antenna as part of North American Field Day, a 24-hour event to test radio connections across the U.S. and Canada. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

There are approximately 200 registered amateur radio operators in P.E.I.

In order to become an operator, people have to take a test. On the Island, that test is administered by operator Chris Vessey.

He said the number of women signing up has increased in recent years by about 10 per cent. 

"That might not sound like a whole lot," said Vessey. "But in this hobby, that's quite significant. And more and more are showing interest. Which is what's really making us excited about the hobby again."

Some ham radio enthusiasts still use Morse code to communicate. Others go on the air just to see how many people they can connect with from all around the world.

According to Vessey, anyone can take part, with the right antenna and radio. 

"I think it's time for a gender balance to happen in this hobby," said Vessey. "There's no reason why women shouldn't talk to people all over the world.

"It's people talking to people, that's what ham radio is all about."



Stephanie vanKampen


Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen