Even though the construction industry continues to be a male-dominated field, if you check out any current Rudolph Libbe Inc. construction project, you will find a number of women working in the trades. For example, Monica Brooks has worked as a heavy equipment operator for more than 11 years, five of those with RLI.
Of all the companies I have worked for, RLI is one of the best—especially when it comes to women. They don’t treat us any differently than the men, and in my case they gave me a chance to run the bigger equipment.Monica Brooks | RLI Heavy Equipment Operator
Heavy equipment operators drive or control construction equipment, including bulldozers, excavators, forklifts, backhoes, dump trucks, cargo trucks, and hydraulic truck cranes. “I am able to work on many different projects, which is what I love about being an operator. The jobs vary so I don’t get bored and I really like being a part of building something tangible,” she says.
What matters with heavy equipment is the skill of the operator, not the gender. Before Monica found her way to the Local 18 International Union of Operating Engineers, she worked as a hairdresser and attended college to be a nurse. It didn’t take her long to determine that neither of these career paths was a good fit for her.
“I should have listened to my Dad initially,” says Monica, who credits him with encouraging her and providing support along her career path. He, along with her grandfather and uncle, also worked in construction as heavy equipment operators. “Growing up, I would sometimes go to job sites with them, so I guess it did influence my decision to get into the field,” she adds.
Each time Monica figured out what she didn’t want to do as a career, her Dad would tell her to give operating equipment a chance. She eventually went to Local 18, signed up and has been working ever since. She is currently working on the new solar module manufacturing facility under construction in Lake Township, Ohio. Monica’s advice to other women considering the trades is to give the work a chance.
“I find it empowering and love the sense of accomplishment I get when I have helped build something that is permanent. You really can’t say that about most careers.”