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Your Mother Wears Workboots

"There may be three or four women taking part in these sessions," says Greg Porter, Region 5 (Canada) Director for BICSI, seated in the posh foyer of the Prince George Hotel in downtown Halifax. Porte...


December 1, 2000  


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“There may be three or four women taking part in these sessions,” says Greg Porter, Region 5 (Canada) Director for BICSI, seated in the posh foyer of the Prince George Hotel in downtown Halifax. Porter’s position on the BICSI Board involves travelling across Canada to chapter meetings in a handful of major centres. It’s a time-consuming task that involves hours in conference rooms where the audiences are largely populated by men. Women tend to hold “marketing” jobs in the cabling industry, says Porter. That said, he can think of a handful of women who are pulling cable; women in blue collars and workboots tend to stand out.

In order to find one of these female cabling specialists, Doug Elliott, President of the Fibre Optic Association, is the man I call. “Education in the FOA is a big issue,” according to the Ontario resident who heads the FOA, which is based in Boston, MA. But there are not many women in the classrooms.

Kerry Laking is not only an exception to this rule, but an exceptional student who takes advantage of the education available to her in Canada. “Kerry is a resident of Hamilton. She is also a licensed electrician and a member of Local Union 105, IBEW,” writes Elliott in his latest online report for FOA. Her says her father, a construction welder, was instrumental in molding her future and was the person who suggested that she start an apprenticeship in the electrical trade, which she started in 1990. When completed in 1999, she became the first female Journeyman Electrician in Local Union 105, IBEW.

“Much of her spare time, or off hours was put to good use taking any courses that were open to her,” writes Elliot. “She started out with a Communications Cabling Course which included the original AMP-ACT curriculum and covered both copper and fiber cabling systems. It was followed with a refresher/upgrade course. That tweaked her interest, big time. She spent the following few months taking the 120-hour, fiber optic course on her own time along with one of the journeyman electricians. They both graduated and received their NJATC Certificates.

“Kerry was now the first female CFOT in Local Union 105, IBEW. That was not enough, [she] took — and passed — the CFOT exams, and thus became [a] member of the FOA. She continued on with her education taking a Motor Control Course and then the Fire Alarm and Protection Course. Kerry has been fortunate… to work out in the field on several Fiber Optic Projects [including ones at] McMaster University, Ontario Power Generation, and The Steel Company of Canada, “E” Blast Furnace, where she was promoted to foreman. Yes, [she is the] first female foreman in this jurisdiction.”

It seems that Ms. Laking has now moved to the head of the class, according to Elliott. “In mid-1999 she was asked to help out as a technical assistant for a copper and fiber training course that was put on at the local union.”


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