Ham Radio News: Women in Radio

Our resident ham radio expert shares perspectives from some of the small cohort of women in radio.

| March/April 1983

  • women in radio - illustration of a woman standing by a dish antenna
    Most ham operators are men, but you will find women in radio.
    Illustration by Fotolia/VectorShots
  • copthorne macdonald
    The author of this column is the inventor of slowscan television, a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts.
    Photo by Madeleine Macdonald

  • women in radio - illustration of a woman standing by a dish antenna
  • copthorne macdonald

Many people are intrigued by the idea of ham radio, but not all of them manage to climb the twin peaks of radio theory and Morse code in order to actually get their licenses. And you may have wondered occasionally — as I have — what sorts of factors help individuals overcome those imposing adversaries.

Part of the answer seems to lie in the kind of support and encouragement each would-be radio operator got as a youngster. My own love affair with electronics, for example, began when I was five years old and my father gave me a crystal set. My early ardor was later reinforced by teachers, scoutmasters, and — again — my parents, until I finally got my license at age 15. Everyone along the way said yes to my interest and my aspirations, and as a result I never once doubted my ability to explore the world of radio.

Many others, especially women, haven't been so fortunate. Little girls are more likely to receive dolls than crystal sets, and find that a budding interest in technology is all too often met with laughter or disapproval. Despite this sort of discouragement, though, women have managed to learn both radio theory and Morse code, and obtain their licenses. I recently asked three women in radio, ham friends all, how they'd managed to succeed. Their comments are, I think, illuminating.

Eliminate the Negative

"My approach to ham radio and—indeed—to most of my interests," says Roberta "Ro" Perkins, N3CUD, "is to decide that I really want to do something and then put on blinders to any negative input.

"Furthermore, I think any woman who has even the slightest interest in ham radio should learn more about it. I feel that no matter how much you put into this hobby, you'll get much more out of it. I'm divorced, and my radio has given me a means of meeting people with a variety of interests and ideas. The usual ways of getting to know strangers just don't do it for me."

A Supportive Family

Pam Linnell, KA1ETW, wrote: "I'd been interested in amateur radio since I was a teenager, but didn't know any hams. (Also, I admit that 14-year-old girls are a little shy of hobbies that might label them as odd.) My electronic interests persisted, though, and I eventually got a 2nd Class radio-phone license. Finally, the bimonthly prodding of New Directions Radio got me to take the Novice test. My sister Marcia took it with me — and now we both have Novice licenses!

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