MDTS, a company built from the ground up eight years ago stands for “Moving Daily Towards Success.” For Jessica Cobb, its CEO, it is not just her company name, but a motto, mantra, and way of life. As a contractor in the largely male-dominated wireless communications infrastructure field, her company specializes in the installation and maintenance of cellular communication technology. To ensure they keep the company motto in the forefront, Cobb has cultivated a work environment centered around continuous education and safety training.
Safety is always a top priority for MDTS and ultimately Cobb’s motivation for industry involvement as a Board Member of NATE, Board Member of the Michigan Wireless Association, company participation in the NATE STAR Initiative program, and utilization of National Wireless Safety Alliance’s (NWSA) services for employee certifications. Her company is a certified Women Owned Small Business and Women Business Enterprise (aka, a WOSB/WBE).
Cobb told Inside Towers although she has seen considerable progress made for and by women in the industry over her eight years, it is a rare occurrence to find a woman at a tower site. “Overall, women are accepted by the majority of the industry, however, that acceptance often includes an assumption of the areas within the industry that they occupy,” Cobb said. “A common assumption for women in the communications infrastructure industry is that they work in a clerical or back office support position such as accounting.”
When a woman is identified as occupying a field position that involves tower climbing, she said more often than not, it’s highly unexpected. When a woman mentions that she owns a company in the industry that employs family members, it’s too often assumed that the primary ownership percentage is male (husband or father) and the overall company operations aren’t run by the female owner.
“That can be frustrating,” she said. “But it’s important to know that these assumptions are due to the fact that women represent a tiny percentage of the industry altogether, and not due to it being unbelievable that a woman is capable of holding such positions.”
When asked if she believes if preconceived notions of a woman’s capabilities on a job site exist, Cobb said, “Absolutely. The people we work with all come with a different set of experiences, which is what makes each person unique. However, just like people from all other groups, we (women) have a significant degree of control as to how we are perceived in the workplace and thus, how we are accepted by our coworkers. We have the ability to cultivate a positive reputation and gain the respect of others through the personal standards we set for ourselves and how we interact with those around us.”
Cobb feels the inclusion of women in the industry is on the rise as more become aware of career opportunities that the wireless communications infrastructure sector has to offer. She cites advocacy groups, such as Women of NATE, that have increased awareness for women outside of the industry and providing support for women in the industry.
“One of the Women of NATE support initiatives is a mentorship program, which connects both women and men to the participants,” she said. “The program is helpful because it assists the participants in developing professional relationships with colleagues who support their growth and become allies for them in the workplace.”
The current pandemic has had its negative impact, according to Cobb, but the changes are not exclusive to women. Regardless of sex, all workers must adapt to working with the COVID-19 protocols that are now in place, such as distancing, procedures for frequent sanitizing, and wearing proper PPE to prevent the spread of illness.
“Depending on what area of the industry a person works in,” she said, “they may encounter obstacles such as learning how to navigate working remotely, working with children at home (or the office), and finding childcare during working hours. Our focus should be identifying how we can best support each other to overcome this pandemic together.”
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor