By Tony Khing
March 7-13 is Women in Construction Week. Currents interviewed four women working in Gas Construction for PG&E to learn why they chose this career path.
Born to Backhoe
Maybe Terri Eisenbraun was destined to be in Gas Construction.
In the 1950s, her grandfather owned a construction company in Los Angeles. Eisenbraun’s father operated heavy equipment for Riverside County. And come June, she’ll be starting her 38 year with PG&E.
“It’s just in my blood, I guess,” said Eisenbraun, a foreman in Gas Distribution out of Fresno.
Initially, her goal was to become the first female backhoe operator in Bakersfield. “It took 18 years,” Eisenbraun said, “but it was worth it. I was fortunate to learn how to operate all kinds of heavy equipment, which I loved.”
For women wanting a career in construction, Eisenbraun said it’s hard work, but has its rewards.
“The journey can be challenging, but it’s worth it,” she said. “The experiences I’ve been able to be part of, from floods to earthquakes to amazing transmission jobs are just the tip of the journey. The people I’ve met along the way have mostly been amazing and are still friends today. Some have even become family.”
“I like being in the great outdoors”
Before Anna Frazer became a utility worker in Gas Construction at PG&E, she was a drug and alcohol counselor at a women’s inpatient facility, ran a housekeeping and gardening business and worked for a handyman services company doing home remodeling and painting.
Since Frazer joined PG&E nearly two years ago, she’s doing things such as assisting in the installation of polyethylene pipe for gas services, connecting gas pipe and prepping pipe installation areas. For Frazer, it beats working the graveyard shift at the inpatient facility or spending days painting walls.
“I like being in the great outdoors, seeing the sun rise and listening to the birds every morning,” said Frazer. “Women working in Gas Construction not only helps strengthen their physiological status, but also their psychological state.”
Frazer had some simple advice for women wanting to make Gas Construction a career: “Keep your mind focused on what’s important.”
Her “Dream Job”
Elaine Damian-Degnan, a Gas Construction operator from Antioch, assists with the maintenance and construction of transmission and distribution gas mains and services.
Damian-Degnan and her coworkers perform the same core work most days, but they’re always in a new work location or city. “I love the variation that Gas Construction offers,” she said. “I like a challenge, something that keeps me learning and on my toes.”
But actually, her passion is working with the equipment. “I love having the ability to operate heavy equipment. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Damian-Degnan, who’s been with PG&E for nearly two years, went to Northwest Lineman College and worked in various construction utility jobs before landing what she calls “my dream job working for PG&E.”
Besides her responsibilities and the different worksites, Damian-Degnan also appreciates working with what she calls “the best crew I’ve seen in my construction career.”
“My foreman is approachable, the crew is supportive, respectful and honest when it comes to what’s expected of each other,” she said. “My crew is inclusive. No one is better than the other regardless of position or rank. Everyone helps everyone out.”
Getting an equal opportunity
Nicole Brooks has been with PG&E for 11 years. The Clovis-based construction operator originally started in Electric Construction.
These days, Brooks uses various heavy equipment to excavate, weld, fabricate and install gas pipeline. She also responds to emergencies such as gas leaks and accidents.
Brooks has always been in the field within the utility industry. She’s worked with cable TV, electric substation and transmission lines. Brooks also worked in oil refineries.
But she really appreciates being at PG&E. “We’re given equal opportunities through training and support to help us grow and excel to be successful,” said Brooks, “As well as getting hands-on training, great pay and benefits.”
Brooks said her male coworkers don’t treat her differently “than any other crew member.” Nevertheless, Brooks has some advice for how males can be more supportive of women coworkers.
“Free your mind of stereotypes,” she said. “Trust that women can adapt and overcome. Men and women need to see each other as employees first and each must hold the other accountable for their attitude and work ethic.”
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com
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