'You Can Say You Added to the New York City Skyline' -- 20 Questions for Women in Construction

By Shantar Gibson

Hard Hats. Strong Women. Building the Future.

Follow our blog to hear the stories of women working in construction in New York City at every level as we ask 20 questions to women working in construction.

Shantar Gibson, Electrician, IBEW Local #3

What was your first job in construction? My first job was at 100 Park Avenue on the 12th floor assisting my first company H&L Electric with the full scope of electrical work involved in the creation of Aetna's headquarters.

What is your current job? I am now employed by EJ Electric, and assist in the Atlantic Yards project at Barclays Arena. I have been on this project from mid-way through until their opening. What I am doing on the job now is punch list, which in construction terms means tying up all loose ends in the specs of EJ's contract with the arena.

What job do you want in the future? "Life is what happens when you've gone and made plans" is a quote that comes to mind, and happens to be one of my life's mottos. Taking things one day at a time suits me just fine. On another note, my career goals are to continue to grow as an electrician. I want to execute my projects with skills and precision in hopes of maintaining the standards of excellence set forth by IBEW/local# 3

Are you in a union? What is the best part of being in a union? Yes, a proud member of IBEW Local #3. The best part of being in a union is becoming aware of what all workers know and understand, which is when you're on the production side of commerce there can be a lot over looked by the employer in the pursuit of profit. For example, fair wages, job security, safety, healthcare, and plans for retirement. Not being in a union leaves the worker vulnerable to being denied the things mentioned above when they are essential to a human life in our modern times. Being a union member turns my one voice that might otherwise be ignored, into many voices. As the saying goes "there is power in numbers".

Why did you choose construction? What led you to construction? There are many choices that reveal themselves in life, and this is where my path has led me. I considered construction because the way things are made has always fascinated me. I use to take apart VCR's, my cell phones, and speakers because I could not afford to have them fixed. Additionally, I believed I could fix them, which lucky for me was the case.

When did you realize you wanted to work in construction? I wouldn't use the word realize, it was more like why not. I am an artist and I went to art school for graphic design. I studied a subject I thought I could make money in. However I discovered cubicles were not for me. Most of my jobs have been retail oriented, which speaks for itself as far as fulfillment goes. Construction pulled together everything for me. No cubicles, people skills a plus, and the artistry, wow, most don't think so but I see nothing but art and creation in all of its glory.

Who inspires you? Not who, but what. The spirit of what brings order from chaos. What is created in construction projects from all the bits and pieces of material and the different trades collapsing into a product is nothing short of a miracle.

What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in construction? Other people's reaction when you tell them what you do for a living. It's a conversational hit!

What is your favorite part of your career? There are a few. Being up before the sunrises. I was never a morning person before construction, but now there is something to be said about the moment when you're on the way to a job before the city starts to bubble with activity. The camaraderie on the job cannot go without mention. Whether its a good day or a bad day, it is just full of life and real personalities getting the job done. Meshing with individuals from all walks of life has shown me that people have more in common than they think.

What is your most memorable moment working in construction? Going to the official Labor Day parade in September. It was refreshing to see workers demonstrating solidarity and celebrating their contributions to representing labor with a voice. The tone at the Labor Day parade is different from other gatherings. It's calm, it's proud, it's real.

What is the best company you have worked for? The companies (shops) that I have worked for have their own special personality. Each has been equally generous with me. All contributed to the growth in my knowledge and experience, and my growth as an electrician and I will forever be grateful.

What is your favorite project you have worked on? The Barclays arena, building a stadium is no joke.

What is the biggest challenge of being a woman working in construction? Bathrooms can be hard to get to.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the field since you started? Getting into buildings to work. Security, while understandably necessary, can often times be in opposition to a productive workday. Also, how can I forget more women on the job?

What advice would you give someone starting out? Don't join construction exclusively for the money; chances are you'll dread the job (like anything else). Choose construction to know a trade. Be in the elements years round. Put in a hard day's work for an honest days pay. The end result is you leave your mark and you can say you added to the New York City skyline.

What is your favorite tool? My 11&1. Tools are heavy and this one cuts down on weight.

What is your favorite hardhat sticker? No Cry Babies

What would surprise us about you? Well, I don't know... I am a woman, a minority, in my 30's, educated, and I am a construction worker what else, if not that, would surprise you? Seriously though, who can say that construction was honestly a choice? Not me, of course I am speaking for myself. However my surprise is your surprise. The random leap of faith that led me to construction has manifested into a random opportunity. Randomly leading your publication to the topic of women in construction. Sounds like herstory in the making.

Are you a woman working in construction? Tell us "What is your favorite hard hat sticker"?

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