Women In The Trades: Exclusive Q&A
The Trades Inspiring women to pursue a career in the trades, Construction & Maintenance Electrician Jennifer Pigozzo sits down with Mediaplanet to share her journey in the skilled trades.
Mediaplanet What first inspired you to pursue a career in the trades?
Jennifer Pigozzo I was working retail and hated it. I happened to see an ad in the newspaper for Women in Skilled Trades, a program to introduce women to careers in the skilled trades, at Conestoga College. I went to the information night and found a new love. I applied and was accepted and started down the path to becoming an electrician.
MP Describe what a typical day on the job looks like.
JP The first thing we do daily is have a safety talk. Being safe is the highest priority. Then off to our assigned jobs, I could be installing conduit, pulling in wire, working on a fire alarm system or installing lights on an elevated work platform 50 feet in the air. The thing I love about my job is the variety. You aren’t stuck doing the same thing all the time.
MP Being a woman in the trades, how do you face the challenges and negativity when overcoming stereotypes?
JP When I first show up on a site the guys are pretty quiet. They are worried about how I’ll act, will I charge them for harassment etc. I try my best to show them that I am there to work. I want to earn my wage just like they are. There will always be guys that don’t feel you should be there but the good guys that will help you and respect you far outweigh the bad.
"First I would recommend that young women talk to their school guidance councillors about careers in the trades."
MP What would you say to young women looking to pursue a career in the trades?
JP Don’t be afraid! When I was in high school very few girls took tech classes. You didn’t want to be one of the boys. I wish now that I had taken those classes as I would have found my career sooner. I encourage girls to really look into all the different options available to you. You may not like electrical but you may love woodworking. The possibilities are endless!
MP Where do you find the most fulfillment in your careers as a tradesperson?
JP The best for me is when I can take my daughters into a building that I helped build, and flick that light switch that I wired, and have them see that light I installed turn on. Having them know that mom can do it and so can they, if they choose, is the most fulfilling thing for me.
MP How did you know this was the right fit for you?
JP I went through a long period of time where I didn’t think this was the right fit. I had a lot of self-doubt and I felt I couldn’t do it. When I realized that I’m not perfect and I can ask questions and get help if I need it, I started to feel more confident. I had the support of my family and co-workers and I fell back in love with the trade.
MP Once you complete your trades training, what other opportunities are available? Can you get higher designations? More training?
JP Once you become a journey level electrician the possibilities are endless. You can choose to stay on the tools, or work your way up to foreman. You may choose to start your own business. If that isn’t what you want, the union hall offers classes in a variety of subjects, PLC’s, safety, fire alarm just to name a few. You could take training and become a health and safety representative or become an electrical inspector. Your career is really what you want to make it.
"I want to show every girl that being in construction isn’t unusual and that it’s a great, though sometimes physical, and rewarding career that pays well and gives you a great sense of accomplishment. If boys can do it, so can girls!"
MP Inspired by your story, what resources do you recommend for young women to look into should they decide to explore a career in trades and apprenticeships?
JP First I would recommend that young women talk to their school guidance councillors about careers in the trades. I would also recommend they check out buildtogether.ca. It is a great resource for women wanting to start in the trades. It gives you information about each trade and tells the stories of women actually in the field. You can even communicate with different tradeswomen through the site.
MP Who has been your biggest source of support in your career?
JP My family has definitely been my biggest support. My husband encourages me to keep going when I’ve had a rough time. My daughters inspire me to provide them with the best I can. Another big group of supporters have been my brothers and sisters of IBEW local 804. They have taught me, helped me and supported me in the new directions my career has taken.
MP What’s next for you?
JP I will continue to work on the tools and I will try to keep inspiring youth to enter careers in the skilled trades. My daughters know that mom is an electrician. They do not think that being a female in construction is anything unusual. That is what I will continue to do with Build Together. I want to show every girl that being in construction isn’t unusual and that it’s a great, though sometimes physical, and rewarding career that pays well and gives you a great sense of accomplishment. If boys can do it, so can girls!