Amazon senior workplace health and safety manager, Niamh Joyce, had to look no further than her own determined mum and her eight aunties for inspiration after learning how their own careers stalled because of marriage and motherhood in a very different cultural era.
“My mother and her eight sisters grew up in Ireland, working from 14 or 15 years of age in roles they were forced to give up when they got married, yet my mum taught me that my gender should never hold me back,” she said.
Niamh, 47, says her mum also taught her how to drive a car, and even more importantly, how to change a tyre without any assistance in case of breakdowns in an era in Ireland where even something like changing a tyre was seen very much as a “man’s job."
“She instilled in me a belief that I could do anything,” she said.
And Niamh has kept her mum’s words close to her heart ever since, working in a series of male-dominated industries in Ireland, Canada, and Australia, proving time and time again that gender should never hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Her mum is proud of her incredible achievements and inspired by the support she received at home, she tries to instill the same self-belief in her own nieces.
“There are no limits or barriers at Amazon. We actively embrace opportunities to be different.”
It’s that determination to forge her own way, no matter what barriers she encountered, or stereotypes she has had to smash, that makes Niamh the perfect person to discuss this year’s International Women’s Day theme—#ChooseToChallenge.
“I was often the only female in the room when I started my career,” explained Niamh, who gained an engineering degree before working in an explosives company, the construction industry and train manufacturing before joining Amazon in 2020.
“It was eye-opening for me when I started at Amazon. It rejuvenated me. I had always felt different in a bad way because I was often the only female. Amazon embraces the fact that you’re different, and not just in gender."
“There are no limits or barriers at Amazon. We actively embrace opportunities to be different. At Amazon change becomes normal quickly and we normalise big changes quickly. People don’t become stale in their role because there’s always a really good level of energy and innovation.”
After overcoming many challenges in an extraordinary career which has seen Niamh repeatedly smash gender stereotypes on three continents, she’s also devoted to her important role as a mentor to both female and male colleagues at Amazon.
“I often seek advice and counsel from my own mentors, and I’m constantly inspired by the females in the Australian operation and management team in how they manage the work life balance and overcome challenges in their roles,” she said.