There’s nothing like a view of Manhattan from 42 stories up on the outside of a building.
I am a journeyman/wirewoman or more commonly an electrician. I started as an apprentice for an electrician in midtown Manhattan slinging wire while we roughed out floors in buildings.Today I build out street-level storefronts in a downtown high rise.
I worked in an office for 15 years and really needed a much more physical job. When my father died and I lost my office job, I decided I was never sitting in a chair for a living again. Working with my brother Kurt to renovate the family home made me very happy! So I began to believe I could do this kind of work. At age 48 I changed careers and now I want to be a working electrician for the rest of my life.
I am in the union and although I am always surprised by how I have been accepted by my co-workers, my union is why I make exactly as much as the men in my trade. It also has a strong women’s group with other women who have been working in the trades for 20+ years. Each one is more supportive than the next. They paved the path I am walking on and I thank them every day. They are my inspiration. The biggest challenge I have as a woman in construction is that when I struggle even a tiny bit, male partners want to take the tools out of my hands and do the work for me. I have to be allowed to struggle and figure out how a person my size can do the job.
I love walking along the streets of our city with a 12-foot ladder or a bundle of 10-foot pipe on my shoulder wearing my hardhat. It shows everybody that women can do this work. It’s impossible to pick my most memorable moment, there are so many. It could be when I was working on a scaffolding, pulling the wires to control the lift that would take us up the outside of the building to the 42nd floor to work every day or waiting on the platform outside the 42nd floor (or the roof!) for a ride to street level to unload a truck, or working downtown after Sandy to put the buildings back on line.
This is my fourth career and only one of them was “traditional female work” in an office. I worked as a TV news field camera person, as a motion picture camera person, as a marketing manager for architects, and now as an electrician. Most people are surprised to learn that I am 55 and a working electrician. I am a strong woman.