Making a Difference in a Male-Dominated Industry By Michaela Curley
Back in college when I was deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life I felt a little lost and was unsure of what route I wanted to take. At the time, all I knew is that I wanted to help others. My mother had worked in construction for a demolition company for 25+ years and many others in my family worked in the trades. When I would get out of school, I would walk over to my mom’s work and wait for her to get out, I guess you could say it was not the typical after-school program. I remember looking at all the equipment and being amazed. Now, I get to work around equipment every day and to this day I am still in awe!
Feeling Like I’m Part of Something Bigger
Choosing Occupational Health and Safety as my career was an easy decision for me not only because it was practical, but also because it is such a rewarding job. Deciding to use my education and knowledge in the construction sector was intriguing to me because I get to generate physical solutions to a real social need. Being part of something that is tangible makes me feel as though I am a part of something bigger than myself and truly feels like more than just “work”. Since the construction industry is everchanging, I find myself never having a boring day at work. I am always challenging myself, learning something new and evolving within my career. Being in the construction industry you become more aware that everything around you has been constructed at some point by someone, and being able to play even a small part in that makes me feel proud about what I do every day.
Assisting in creating and maintaining a safe workplace, preventing fatalities, accidents and injuries is a very fulfilling occupation. Researching regulations, enforcing compliance, recognizing hazards and developing controls are only a few of the things I love about my job. My favorite part about what I do is the people I work with and around – from the field workers to the management team. Being able to form bonds with those in the trades helps drive a strong safety culture and helps me learn more about what’s going on out in the field. On the other hand, having the support from upper management helps drive performance and adds value to the overall safety culture. I am thankful that at Landry/French I have continuous support from my coworkers and always feel appreciated.
Don’t Be Afraid to Put Yourself Out There
Of course, just like many other career paths, there are negatives, especially as a woman in such a male-dominated industry. As a safety professional not everyone is going to like you, there will be pushback from workers and accidents do happen. I have always chosen to view the negative aspects as opportunities in disguise. Looking at these situations with an optimistic outlook has given me the ability to learn from them while expanding my knowledge in safety. Overcoming these obstacles is not always easy, but I am very passionate and persistent about what I do and I strive to make a difference even in challenging environments. One of the most valuable things I have learned from working in construction is to never be afraid to put yourself out there, ask questions to learn and grow—there may be roadblocks but to never give up.