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All-female construction crew in Indianapolis leads electrical construction work

Women's History Month: Women leading in electrical construction
Wheeler Mission Electricians.jpg
Posted at 8:18 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 12:47:22-04

INDIANAPOLIS — In honor of Women's History Month, WRTV went to Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children, off Michigan and La Salle Streets in Indianapolis.

It's a transitional facility to help women and children experiencing homelessness. To get the new facility ready, there are three women working there who light up the building, before anyone steps inside.

Leslie Hauk, Alexis Mithcell and Lori Griffith are behind the entire electrical work inside of the building.

"It's (Wheeler Mission Center) going to be really great for people and families that need that,” Hauk said.

She's the apprentice in the group of ladies.

"Right now, I do anything that Alexis and Laurie tell me to do," said Hauk.

Not only is she learning lots on the job, but she’s finding inspiration working around an all women’s electrical team. Hauk said Mitchell and Griffith, "are trailblazers, and I feel lucky to be around them and learn from.”

Only a month into her apprenticeship, she said she’s learned, "Manual dexterity and then you use your mind a lot. Of course, there is some, some labor to it.”

Hauk said, “Watching these people, I will never complain because they never do, and they just get it done."

Now nearly one year into the project, they women have wired most of the 164 new permanent bedrooms in the building.

Mitchell said her title is the Journeyman Electrician. She brings eight years of electrical experience with her from other construction sites.

"We're used to just working with a lot of men,” Mithcell said.

She said even though fewer women work in construction, she's found it sparks her passion, after a few years in College.

"I went for engineering, but I didn't want to do the designing, I wanted to work with my hands," Mitchell said.

Her work is setting an example of women who find an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM-based fields.

She said she hopes other women see this story and know, "We're all the same, and we're capable of doing the work. It is not as hard as people think it is. We can do it."

A lot of the work they do is visible, like wiring card readers for doors, or smoke detectors on the ceiling, but some work is later covered up behind finished the walls.

The Foreman for the team is Lori Griffith. She delegates and orchestrates all of the tasks to get the electrical work done.

"Me in my younger years, I hardly ever saw another woman,” Griffith said.

She said women have come a long way in the construction industry.

"Women can do construction, you know, sometimes it's nasty and dirty, but if you have a mindset, there's nothing stopping you. I mean you can even become the boss if you want,” Griffith said. "Sometimes it's kind of hard for women. You can't be dainty.”

She's put in more than 25 years into building respect with the construction men.

"It's kind of like brother and sister now, you know. They joke around, but they go out of their way to help you, and we go out of our way to help them,” Griffith said.

As part of the IBEW 481 Union, and as many find in the electrical construction industry, these ladies told us they're getting paid the same at men, meaning they aren’t experiencing any wage gap.

"We make what the guys make,” Griffith said.

To her, it’s a job that values women.

"So, there's three of us here. And, you know what, they pull their weight,” Griffith said. "This job was meant for me, I mean, being an electrician."

To become an electrical construction worker, it takes five years of schooling, but these women said it's a stable job that's looking for more women and continued even during the pandemic.