Mutual respect between the sexes is vital for success
WHEN ANGIE HOLDER started out as an apprentice 20 years ago at Local 363 (East St. Louis, Illinois), she understood that working in a male-dominated profession would have its challenges. But Holder notes that since her first day on the job, the rewards of working as a Boilermaker have outweighed any trials she’s faced.
She says watching the career of her father, Teddy Bass (L-363), spurred her interest in the craft. “When I was a little girl, my dad took me on a jobsite,” she says. “I still remember the heat and the smell. I loved it.”
Bass didn’t want Holder to be a Boilermaker. Traditional female professions were his idea of the right career for his only daughter.
“Twenty years ago, my dad told me I needed to be a nurse,” says Holder with a laugh. “He just didn’t think I needed to be out here.”
“When I was a little girl, my dad took me on a jobsite. I still remember the heat and the smell. I loved it.”
However, she didn’t listen. Holder kept bugging her father. He finally acquiesced, driving her to take the test Local 363 then required as part of the application to become an apprentice. By the time she started working, her father had retired. Bass died in 2000, a few years after Holder trekked out to her first assignment.
On her first job, she worked on permit. When she walked into the break shack, all the men stopped talking. “It was total silence, because there were no other women on the job,” Holder recalls. “I found a place in the corner to sit, and a guy came over and said, ‘That’s my spot.’ So I slid over and said ‘I’m not trying to take your spot’ and I thought, ‘Here we go.’”
A lot has changed since that first day. There are now more women in her local than there were 20 years ago, and men are getting more accustomed to seeing women on a jobsite. The men respect her now — both the young ones coming in as apprentices, and her longtime union brothers as well.
Holder would like to see more lady Boilermakers, not that she thinks every woman, or even every man, is suited for the work. “It takes someone special to be out here. I don’t think adjustments need to be made if people can’t cut it,” she says, noting that applies to either sex.
During her two decades in the union, Holder has seen women and men excel on a jobsite when respecting one another’s strengths. “I might not be as strong as a man to do a certain thing, but there are men afraid of heights, so I go high,” she says. “I’ve always felt working well together was a trade-off.”
Looking back over her years in the Brotherhood, Holder says she stays because she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love the job, and getting dirty. It’s not the same thing over and over and over. I love working with the guys, with people from all over the country and all walks of life. Together, we make it work.”