A Woman Working in the Trades: An Interview

For the International Day of Women in February, I did a written interview at my place of work, to be featured on their social media. The post went up in March for Women’s History Month. Although I chose my words carefully, the actual post was a brief summary written in third person (“she/her”) by someone else, which didn’t represent my true lens. So, I’m publishing the full Q&A here:

Title: Maintenance Worker

Duties: We have a wide range of duties within the maintenance division, from snow removal and remodeling a historic bathroom to crack sealing the roads and fixing things that break in visitor centers and park housing. I really enjoy the variety!

What inspired you to choose a career in STEM?
I don’t resonate with the word “career,” but rather view it as though I’ve simply followed my interests and curiosities over time, and this is where they’ve led me currently. I say “simply,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean “easily.” Often I’ve had to leave something familiar and comfortable to step into the unknown, to honor/listen to that inner knowing—which for the last couple of years has wanted to learn as much as she can in all of the trades.

Woman in green tightens screw on electrical outlet on the ceiling.

The deeper into this area I go, the more clearly I see the necessity of women in maintenance/construction fields. We need to make changes to “how things have been” in construction, and make decisions which value the Earth & all beings over money. This is a primary motivation for me right now: if I can learn these skills, teach them to other women, and question the way things have been done, we can leave our Earth in better hands for generations to come.

What do you love most about your job?
I love being outside, using my hands, the creativity involved, and the variety each day.

NPS worker pulls electrical wire outside near table with tools.

Something I’m struggling with often these days is that I work and live on stolen lands of Indigenous peoples, who have made their home here since time immemorial. Change is constant, and I can see conversations happening between our Monuments and local tribes which point towards a better direction. Much more could be said, but I’d be remiss not to say anything. I know we can elevate Indigenous voices, listen to them, and together imagine and create something beautiful.

What advice would you give to those who inspire to work in the field of STEM?
Surround yourself with people doing the thing you want to be doing. I have immersed myself into many new worlds over the years: ie playing on a competitive ultimate frisbee team in Madrid (when I was the kid throughout school who dreaded gym class), learning French to fluency, working with the highest trail crew in the country on a mountain in Colorado (when a year prior I hadn’t known what a “conservation corps” was and that they existed), and now the maintenance world. It has always been easier to learn/do something once I met someone face-to-face who was already doing it. Spend time with the people who encourage your pursuits.

Also, remember that not everything can be measured. Experiences are meaningful and important, even when they cannot be captured in words or numbers.

Our society, STEM in particular, tend to favor metrics and capturing data, but there are other ways of knowing, and those ways are extremely valuable.

Woman in green with eye protection and ear protection smiles in front of shelves she's breaking down with a Sawz-all and hammer.