Women In The Industry – Jacqueline Cason
There are many fields and industries that have stereotypically been considered a “man’s job”. Women are breaking that mold and setting a new standards. Several women have paved the way and are continuing to encourage women to follow suit. The opportunities are endless when women enter fields that have previously been closed off.
We had the opportunity to meet and talk with Jacqueline Cason, a Construction Project Engineer for Z Modular. She has great insight and advice for women who are interested in careers in construction and engineering.
How did you know you wanted to work in this industry? What lead you to this career?
I grew up with a dad who worked in the construction industry and a mom whose entire family were steelworkers and ironworkers before that. I am a 5th generation steel employee whose family’s careers all started with steel. My great grandfather worked as a crane operator, after he lost his business during the Great Depression, for a company known as Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad. My grandfather started his career with the US Steel mill in Fairfield, AL and rose the ranks to become the General Manager for US Steel Corp until the late 80’s and traveled across the US with his job. Both of my uncles also worked at the US Steel mill in Fairfield to fund their college education.
What is it like to be a woman in a male dominated industry?
Since I was old enough to work, I went to work with my dad I have been working in largely male-dominated industries. My first real challenge working in this environment was at the paper mill where women were something pretty to look at or a glorified secretary. It took several months to “prove” myself as more valuable than what women were perceived as. When I came to work in the steel industry, being a woman in the industry became less of a barrier. The challenge at this point became a test of my knowledge of the steel and construction industry. Some days, it felt like it would be easier to walk around with my resume on my hard hat than waste the 10 minutes explaining to someone how I knew about the subject matter at hand in a conversation.
What does your daily routine look like?
My routine varies day to day, as I travel for the projects I’m currently assigned to. The mornings start with catching up on emails and laying out my to-do list for the day. When i’m at our plant location, I try to make a point of walking the job floor and observing the work going on to keep myself in the loop. You never want to be too far from where the action is taking place.
Do you think being a woman in this industry makes the career path more difficult? Less difficult?
My experience being a woman in the industry is that the industry is easy to get into, but hard to work in. The career paths are abundant as are job opportunities, the hard part is sticking to it and knocking down the challenges that you’re faced with daily.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced being a woman in the steel manufacturing industry?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is earning respect for what I’ve accomplished and not for what gender I am. In the south, people are raised to be well mannered and assist a lady in need, as an adult in the industry this carries over and men feel compelled to do the hard work, so a lady doesn’t have to, even if its her job. While I greatly appreciate this behavior outside of work and somewhat expect it, it does get annoying to deal with in the workplace where you always feel like you’re having to deny help to do your job.
What has been the best thing about being a woman in this industry?
The opportunities are endless. Right now, the industry is pushing to get women into this segment and the job market is open and competitive for women who are ready and wiling to jump right in and contribute.
What are you most proud of that others in your position haven’t achieved?
My initiative and perspicacity to get the task at hand accomplished and the problem solved. Most people stop when they encounter problems, they are not sure how to get past it. I always do my best to solve the problem myself and ask for help when needed to make sure the task gets done and doesn’t hinder progress.
What advice do you have for younger generations and young women who aspire to have a career whether in sales or other fields in this industry?
Educate yourself, lead by example, and always remember actions speak louder than words. Never feel like you must prove yourself, its always better to let your actions show your worth. “Be content to act, and leave the talking to others.”