Women in Towers: Justine Wasley

Name: Justine Wasley       

Company currently working for: NLR Management

Job name/Title: I am the property manager for their three properties in Williston, ND

How did you get started in the tower industry?  My husband was hired in the company first as their company carpenter helping on tower sites building the network buildings and other things needed. I was working at a gas station at the time and not really liking it. I went to his company’s halloween party and ended up talking to the warehouse supervisor. At the end of the night he offered me a job as a warehouse worker, making more than I was at the gas station.

I worked in the warehouse for a couple months getting B.O.M.s (build of materials) ready for the foremen of our two crews. Delivered parts needed for their sites and other things like that. One day I delivered a spool of coax to a site and was headed back to base when my supervisor called, saying to go back to the site because they needed a spotter for the crane. I went back to the site and helped out the crane operator for the day. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was helping the foreman, Ryan. I was really excited because that was the longest I had ever gotten to stay on a site, let alone help work on one.

Apparently at the end of the day, as I was driving back to base, Ryan called the owner of the company and asked for me to be permanently placed on his crew. He said he liked my work ethic, hard work, attention to detail and was impressed with my quick study.

I didn’t get to climb at first, but being on the crew, learning how to stamp tags, what the codes meant, help run coax, block it in, things of that nature at that time was enough. It was a lot of fun.

How long have you been climbing?   I ended up only getting to climb for maybe two months out of the year I worked at the tower company due to finding out I was pregnant with my first child.

Biggest like/dislike about it?  The biggest like I had was I was doing something that I had never done before. I was doing something that not a lot of women did before. I felt like a pioneer in the industry and I wish I could have continued to help blaze the path.

Biggest dislike, that even on my own crew I still had to work double time to prove myself, and even then still be looked down upon, because I was a woman. Viewed as weaker, not as smart, or any other things that were thought about me because I was young at the time (22) and, again, a woman.

Do you feel accepted by largely male crews or has it been a struggle?  My foreman’s top hand Kurt accepted me very well. He helped me a lot and gave me pointers to help do better by my crew who did rely on me for many different things. It was funny when other tower crews came to work on the same tower we were working on, then see me when I took my hard hat off. It was like common sense and composure went straight out the window. Made me laugh more than once.

Would you recommend this industry to other women and if so what would you warn them about?  I would definitely recommend this industry to other women! We need more women out there! It’s not the whole anti-feminism, sexist, gender roles, or anything like that. It’s just don’t count someone out because she is a woman. This industry isn’t for everyone. Man and woman alike, but let them prove themselves as an asset or liability before you judge them.

Have you had any unusual experiences while climbing or at tower site? I have had a few weird experiences. Some good, bad, funny, all the above. But one that comes to mind was actually kind of funny.

I was working on this tower with my crew in WA. I was on the ice bridge by the tower blocking in coax, my crewmate Grant was grounding the wires at the foot of the tower, and my foreman and tophand were on the tower connecting the coax to the bottom of the antennas on this 74 foot monopole.

This other crew came on site working on a different carrier. He sees Grant and grunts a hello at him. Looks up and me and grunts again, but then does this double take seeing that I was a woman. He then says in a really high-pitched voice, “Hi, I’m Jason!” All manner of self-respect and common sense went out the window. I just smiled and said hello back. A few minutes later I got down from the icebridge, walked around the AWS cabinet, and almost walked right into “Jason.” I said, “Oh excuse me!” And all he could do was give a huge goofy smile and say (really loud) “HI!!”

A minute later my cell rings and it’s Kurt on the tower. “Hello?” I say. “I can hear that idiot from up here!!” Tell him to get his head out of his butt or I’ll come down there and do it for him!!” And hung up. Kurt was always protective of me which was in its own way pretty comforting. He had told me once that no matter what, even if he was angry at me for something, if I needed help with someone harassing me, ‘cause let’s face it, that does happen no matter who you are, he would be right there to protect me.

I miss the industry badly. I would love to climb again, but now having a child, my husband and I agree that the traveling and the fluctuating hours would take too much of a negative toll on the family structure. Out here in ND, it takes forever to get anywhere so traveling to the site, working, and getting home at a decent hour just isn’t a guarantee. But I stay active in learning the updates the towers require, looking at the safety stats posted on various sites, and lobbying for just the pure awesomeness it is/was to work on towers. Maybe one day I will return to a crow’s nest, but until then, stay safe my fellow tower dogs!! Whoop Whoop!!

August 9, 2017                   

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