Please tell us your name, role, and your background
My name is Tabatha Sandoval and I am a commercial/industrial electrician at IBEW Local 617 in San Mateo, California. I have been in the construction industry now for a little over 3 years.
How did you get involved in construction?
I have a love for cars. I believe that the industry of automobiles is heading to full electric one day. I wanted to get into the industry and so I started studying electronics engineering and absolutely loved the theory. However the time at the computer just drove me crazy, as I am not one to sit well. Someone suggested becoming an electrician instead, that I definitely would not be sitting much in that career. I looked into it immediately and soon thereafter transferred my studies.
Why did you choose this profession?
I loved the theory! The power is so intriguing. I love that I have control over something so powerful and I maintain full respect for it always. I love a challenge. This profession challenges me times three: mentally, physically and as a woman socially.
Would you say it’s more difficult to start a career in construction for women than it is for men?
When I first made the decision to become an electrician, I worried if I was making the right decision. I was nervous that I would not be able to do the job as well as a man. I submitted my resume and was told that because I had no field experience I was not a good fit for the position.
I have heard and seen since then of men being hired with no experience or training and then trained in the field with expectations of entering into educational courses after the fact. I feel that those opportunities are not even considered for women. And for that reason and others, I believe it is more difficult for women to start a career in the construction industry.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you think women face in the construction industry?
I think there are men in the industry who believe that a construction site is not the proper place for a woman. They carry an old-school way of thought. I also believe that it is thought that a woman is not as strong as men. I THOUGHT THAT WAY FOR SO LONG!! Other tradesman have asked me, as I pull out the roto-hammer or the hilti, if I was sure I could do it. I reply every time with a genuine smile “oh I’m sure, and possibly better than you”
Do you think the number of women in construction will increase in the future?
I do believe that the number of women will increase, however slowly. When my friends see what I do, they’re first thought is their nails or getting dirty. And actually not having to worry about getting dirty is one thing I love. I go to work with expectations of getting filthy. I clean up well still. Furthermore, I get my nails done regularly. My career doesn’t keep me from still being feminine.
What are your recommendations for other women and NHEO Institute members?
Don’t give up! Give it all you’ve got. As a woman I feel like I have to prove my worth in the field. And many may see that as a bad thing, but I just see that as a fire burning under me to make ME more valuable as an employee regardless of my gender. Food for growth. Continue to do things that manifest growth and never stop trying to improve yourself. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it and BELIEVE in yourself.
What is something that surprises people about you?
People are surprised and how I get down and dirty in the field and how ultra feminine I am in my everyday life. I’ll never get tired of saying I’m an electrician! It’s my love and my life. It makes me happy and people always find that surprising as well.