I’ve had a couple weeks to process this, and yet it’s still murky waters for me. My mind is filled with unanswered questions, re-ignited excitement and wondrous curiosities.
When I first found out that I was invited to attend the annual IBEW Women’s Conference, I was looking forward to seeing another aspect of my trade. I didn’t know what to expect but to be surrounded by women. I didn’t know what type of information the seminars would cover, or what the other women would be like. Would we get along? Would I be outgoing enough to participate in talks? Do I even know how to mingle with strangers? I didn’t even know for sure who I would be rooming with in the hotel for 4 days!
I was delighted to find by the first day that all my apprehensions were laid to rest. I got along great with my roomie, the other women attendees were full of an infectious energy and the workshop leaders were skilled in the arts of ice-breakers that actually worked. I found myself opening up freely in topic-conversations, brainstorming, offering my perspective and various suggestions. After the first day I felt honored to be in the presence of so many hard-working and amazing women.
Originally I thought that the conference was open to women electricians. How surprised I was when I began to comprehend the sheer MAGNITUDE of the IBEW. In addition to other Inside Wiremen electricians, I met Outside Linemen and other workers also represented by the IBEW, whom I had no clue were even part of our membership. The common underlying values of workers’ rights, and the massive body of desire to uplift our union as a whole was positively overwhelming in its own right.
Over my years in construction, I’ve been exposed to much discord: complaints, “issues” and disagreements about how things are, why problems exist and who is to blame. Normally these conversations end with the abrupt saying, “Well, it is what it is,” or even more disturbing, “Oh well, what CAN you do?” For the first time in my career as a union electrician of over four years, I became witness to a pathway of Resolution, Progress and Hope.
I caught a glimpse of something at this conference: the passion in activism — fighting honorably for values that I believe in; discovering sisterhood amongst strangers; the capacity for creativity in finding solutions to shared problems; the myriad roles filled by individuals who bring their unique strengths to the table; the combined wisdom of so many great minds and spirits.
Ultimately, I felt uplifted. It truly is an amazing organization that can elicit all the remarkable qualities of its membership, and celebrate the everyday people who make it all possible. I wish more people could have this experience.