«In the United States we celebrate March as Women Month but March 8th is honored as International Women’s Day throughout the world. This special ...»
In the United States we celebrate March as Women Month but March 8th is honored as
International Women’s Day throughout the world. This special 2014 international
issue is heading up with Sheila White who showed by example how any woman can
fight for her rights in the American work place. In her book “My Fight With a Giant”
she describes what her life was like working in the railroad yards of Tennessee, how
she learned to stand up for herself, and how she helped the legal system defend her from the discrimination, retaliation, and humiliation she experienced. Sheila took her fight all the way to the US Supreme Court and won! In the process she helped open the door for all working women. It is a true story about courage, determination and triumph. The Court’s determination in her case is president setting because it found that retaliation does not have to be an adverse employment action to be unlawful.
(Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White -... Argued April 17, 2006 and decided June 22,
2006. Full case name, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, Petitioner v. Sheila White.)
MY FIGHT WITH A GIANT
POETRY TO CELEBRATEmarched through the streets demanding an end to INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY horrendous sweatshop conditions. They were also fighting for equal pay and equal work, childcare centers and the right to
SISTERSvote! These were issues that women around the world were also struggling with. The garment workers had been waging a Today a perfectly dressed office lady drawn out battle with brutal factory owners. Many of them walked past my work site.
gave their lives in the New York City conflict and March 8th She looked at me in my hard hat bestows international honor upon them.
and dirty overalls and she smiled.
Put her thumb up in the air and smiled again! Over th
I always wanted a trade. As a kid I wanted to be a tiler. All those beautiful straight lines!
But it was just never considered the done thing for girls at the time. I grew up in a university suburb. At primary school we would all march down to the campus pool for our swimming lessons. It was just a given that I would go straight to uni after school and get a degree.
I enrolled in Science. I was very arty in high school and I was being encouraged to take up a career in graphic design, but I loved Biology. I had pictures of whales and dolphins all over my bedroom walls.I enjoyed my uni experience. I studied Maths, Chemistry, Ecology, Genetics, Environmental Science, Plant Biology and Statistics. But it gave me zero career direction. After I graduated, I fell into IT. It was completely by accident - and up until that point I hadn't a clue how to operate a computer - but I took to it like a duck to water. I worked on a help desk, did tech support, learnt how to program web sites, built databases, and managed projects. I loved data most of all. But working in an office was dreary and draining, and once I had mastered each role I quickly became bored.
In 2005 I became pregnant with my first child and decided to resign and spend a few years at home. Fast forward to 2012. I had two little kids under 5, had just separated from my partner and was coming to terms with the harsh reality of being out of the workforce for a long period of time. I knew I had to retrain, but in what? A few of my friends had done an Accounting diploma and were having success finding part-time work with family friendly hours. Sure, I could do that with my eyes closed, but did I really want to go back to doing office work? I spent many hours looking at all the different courses on the TAFE web site. (Technical and Further Education) I kept coming back to Horticulture. It was something I always wanted to do. One day I mustered up enough courage and enrolled in Landscape Construction. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time.
My first day in class was surreal. I was the only girl. And standing 5'0" with my steel caps on, I stood out like a sore thumb. We went outside to be shown how to mix concrete in a wheelbarrow. I was too terrified to even have a go.
Over the next 12 months, my confidence grew. My fellow students were a constant source of encouragement for me. They believed in me even when I didn't! I operated a concrete mixer. Cut sandstone pavers with a wet saw. Erected a timber retaining wall. Laid paving. Built a brick pier. I was in heaven.
After I finished my Landscaping course, I had the building bug. I immediately enrolled in Carpentry. With all the numbers and calculations in the theory component, I was in my element. But I was struggling to find on the job training. I was doing casual garden maintenance in between school hours. I approached a local builder and asked if I could do some unpaid work experience. On a residential renovation project, there were three carpenters. All gentle giants; extremely supportive and patient. They involved me in almost everything they were doing. I watched as the three of them struggled to lift and place an enormous steel girder. My heart sank.
I really wasn't cut out for this type of work.
The Christmas period was a time for reflection. Most of my gardening clients were on holidays, and I was getting ready to spend some quality time with my kids. I was in a real quandary about my career. Should I really give up everything I've worked so hard to achieve and go back to what I'm used to? I was in the middle of renovating my first unit and the electrician had brought over some supplies. Always curious, I started asking questions. Suddenly, I was fascinated. I got it! Where carpentry is the skeleton of the building, electrical is the central nervous system! My head started spinning. Electrical. Really?? Could this be the thing I've been looking for all along? The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Science. IT. Maths. Hands on. Brains.
Creativity. Fine motor skills. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
I saw a job ad for first year apprentices. I hesitated, then applied, thinking I had nothing to lose, like all the other job ads I had applied for in Carpentry that got me nowhere. An hour later, the phone rang. Could I come in for an interview right away? I got straight into my car and drove an hour to meet the boss man. I had explained in my cover letter that I was a mum, and that I may need to come in late a few mornings a week because I had to drop my kids at school. He said it was slightly problematic, but not a deal breaker.
We had a chat for about an hour. I told him all about my career history and my dream of having a trade under my belt. He could see my potential, my smarts and my hunger to learn. He offered me the job on the spot, to start the week after New Year's. I nearly fell off my chair. The next two weeks were a blur of trying to organise child care and buying tools for the job and trying to convince myself that it was actually happening!
I'm now six weeks into the role. I've hit the ground running and I am totally in my element. I can even read and interpret the plans and explain them to the other first years! Finally, a role that I can really sink my teeth into.
Physically and intellectually challenging, no two days the same, and once I'm qualified, I can go anywhere and do anything. Not to mention that demonstrating to my kids that hard work and persistence pays off, always.
I want to end with a quote I heard from an interview with a female electrician I saw on Youtube:
"When you find something that fits your personality, you grow as a person."
From a humble first year apprentice sparky. Bring on 2014. It's time to shine.
© 2014 Amanda Reitzin, Electrician Sidney Australia Hello Sister Tradies My Name is Millie Morris Grafton NSW, Australia I will try and be brief about my career as an electrician in Australia that began in
1986. My name is Millie Morris and originally a farm girl that learnt at a young age (12) how to drive tractors, cars, trucks and motor bikes. I had a passion for wanting to know how mechanically they worked. Living on a remote farm we had no electricity so mechanical things were important. This is where I learnt about generators supplying electricity for our TV and a few lights. Later my mother introduced battery lights and TV. This meant I could run wires and have more lights and even ones with switches...I found this amazing. Anyway I’m meant to be keeping this brief.
I found my way to the local TAFE and enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course that ran for 12 months and covered 2 years theory of an electrical apprenticeship. I did very well in the course and picked up the most progressive pre-apprentice of the year. I was very happy with this as I had 4 apprenticeships offered to me. So this was the beginning of 28 years in the industry. I had some great achievements and some very low times, one time going through a sexual harassment case that shook me to the core but not enough to make me quit. I loved then and still do love being an electrician.
Back in the year 2000 I had the opportunity to take on the air conditioning / refrigeration trade so I did another apprenticeship and another 3 years at TAFE. Again I picked awards of excellence and did very well at my studies. Presently I am a contractor working for a nursing home taking care of the maintenance and installations and enjoy this work as it is very rewarding working in the aged care industry. I am also now beginning to teach refrigeration/electrical at the very institute I began with in 1986 and where I did my refrigeration trade.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would do a complete circle and end up where I began my career as an electrician. I now live in the country town I grew up in but when I took up my apprenticeship I moved to the big smoke where I learnt so much... not only about my trade but life skills too. This little country girl had never been to the * Big Smoke and once I got there I was hooked for 15 years before moving back home.
Anyway I could go on and on about what I have been through in my trade over the last 28 years but I would need heaps more time to share.
I am glad I stuck with it and think it is a great trade for women and have finally found a very supportive group:
SALT- Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen to share my stories and friendships with other women that have been in the trade for a long time or with women that are just starting out.
I Am Joann Greeley St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada I am a hiker, runner, kayaker, yogi and an electrician. I have worked at hardware stores, pool stores, trucking companies, video stores, horse barn, fish and chip shop and I have sold shoes.
How did I end up being an electrician??
Not really sure, it you had told me 10 years ago that I would be in electrician living NL I wouldn't have believed you. My first job was at my father’s hardware store when I was 8 and made 10 cents an hour.
I counted wire staples and put them in bags of 50 and 100...I am sure my fingers were raw. I learned my first life lesson there. I wanted to buy an owl night light, I can still see it, when it came time to pay I was short money. I was devastated when Dad told me I would have to come back the next Saturday to earn enough to pay for it. This when I found out that if you want something you are going to have to work for it.
Nothing comes free.
He has a saying...The world owes you a living and you have to work hard to collect it..
I grew up in Topsail, the oldest of 4. We had a good life but always had to our chores in order to get an allowance. I spent many Friday nights mowing the front lawn before I went out with my friends.
I really loved working with my Dad and continued to work at his hardware store on Saturdays. I guess I never knew that “girls” didn't do that.
He always had us helping him and we loved it. I should also mention that my Mom is very handy as well and has her own tool box.
When I finished high school I headed to Toronto to the big city. I jumped around different retail jobs and moved to Waterloo after a couple of years. I lived in Waterloo for 15 years and loved it. Never thought I would leave there. Then I was drawn back to NL.
When I came home I figured that I would be able to find a job similar to Waterloo and make the same money...not so....I went for and interview and the person told me that if things worked out I could earn up to $15 per hour. Wow...what a shock... That weekend I was visiting friends and they told me that the government was promoting women in the trades and they would help you get through school. I figured what do I have to lose. Dad's and electrician and he is the same size, if he can do it I can do it. So everything was arranged and I was off to school. I just had to do a 9 month and get my hours no problem. Or so I thought.
School was an eye opener. I was in a class room with 17 guys. And there were only 2 other women on the whole campus. I was also the oldest person in my class at 35. It was a pretty lonely feeling. Luckily I had an excellent teacher. Wayne Predham. He was very professional and didn't treat me any different then the guys.
I made great friends that year and I am still in touch with many of them.
Of course this is where I experienced my 1st taste of that is meant to be a women in a “man's” world. One guy wouldn't work with me in the booths because I was a woman. I thought that was pretty funny and laughed it off. There were many conversations that I didn't feel comfortable with and walked away from. This is where I decided that I would to hold myself to a high standard and not get involved with sharing personal information with the guys I was working with. You will learn early on that this is a slippery slope. Once you start that kind of vulgar banter it doesn't usually end up with you on the winning end.
My experience taught me to keep it light, don't take it personally and have a good sense of humour.