SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. — On a cool South Carolina morning, Duke Energy electrical linemen shift their gaze toward the sky as their colleague rises above them in a bucket truck.
Jordan Demartino’s blonde ponytail peeks out from underneath her white safety helmet. She’s quiet as she reaches the top and gets to work connecting a line from a transformer along a rural road to a new light she’s installing in a customer’s backyard.
The job can be demanding: Crews often work around the clock in miserable conditions during severe weather and power outages. Strength and agility are a must as lineworkers are required to lift heavy equipment up towering poles and through underground tunnels. Anyone afraid of heights or tight spaces need not apply.
“When they heard they were getting a girl at work, they were like, ‘What? Have people lost their mind?’” she said.
But high-voltage work makes sense for women seeking a trade where they can earn good salaries and equal pay. The jobs aren’t hard to come by as experienced lineworkers grow older and retire. The nation’s power grid also is aging, requiring a constant stream of work by electric companies nationwide. With overtime, salaries can easily soar into the six-figure range.
She landed the job with Duke after completing their lengthy screening and training, including written tests and physical benchmarks, such as the ability to climb a pole with a 250-pound transformer using a pulley system.
“I went through everything that the guys went through, and no one took it easy on me,” she said. And then she had to prove she had the stamina to stick with it. Jordan says her male colleagues warmed up to her once they realized she was there to do a job and not “to look pretty.” Now, she considers them her brothers.
She’s working to become an experienced “journeyman” lineman. But to the untrained eye she already scales power poles like a pro.
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