Women IN power – Lana Norton
“But if we’re looking to break down the barriers, we can start with those in our own homes and look at the cultural gender expectations”
By Anthony Capkun
April 19, 2021 Take away the names and any gender identifiers, and the story you’re about to read could have been told by just about anyone.
In the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine, we invited readers to meet some of the women—in various stages of their careers—who are powering up Canada’s electrical sector, and who provided us with a candid account of their journeys as female electrical professionals.
This is LANA NORTON’s Story
“By the time I was 21, I had already attended a year of nursing, and decided that wasn’t for me. And I was also a single mom to a one year-old,” Lana recounts. So she attended college and pursued a Powerline Technician diploma. “From there, I was hired on as an apprentice powerline technician into the trades.”
This was great for Lana because, “By pursuing a career in the trades, I had the opportunity to attend school for four years—while being paid—and, at the end of it, be able to complete an apprenticeship.”
But Lana did not complete her apprenticeship because she was offered an opportunity as a field operator.
“The field operator is slightly different from the powerline technician, where I work on a 24/7 basis with system office doing emergency switching. And I deeply enjoyed doing that.”
From there, Lana’s career took another turn when she became a field technician, “where I do the project planning and prepare projects for execution by our overhead construction crews”.
Most of all, she enjoys the camaraderie at work; the conversations she has with both men and other women, and “being there for each other”.
“You intimately know what’s expected of you, and the situations that you have to overcome being outside in the field,” says Lana proudly. “We work in all weather conditions, so being there for each other when it counts definitely sticks in my mind with this trade. And I deeply enjoy that no two days are ever the same. Your challenges can vary from day to day.”
While her experiences have, thus far, been positive, Lana suggests barriers to women—both “intentional and non-intentional”—do still exist, but “we are making progress”.
As she thinks back to when she started her career in the trades, Lana says “I was the second woman to go through the powerline technician college program. There was one woman ahead of me and, when she graduated, I never saw another woman for the rest of the time that I was there”.
Eventually, Lana would hear of other women going through the school, and she wanted a place where they could all “connect and share experiences; where geographical boundaries didn’t limit us”.
That drove Lana to found the group Women of Powerline Technicians to be “a voice from the field, committed to increasing representation of women in trade and technical roles in Canada’s electricity sector and beyond”.
She explains the group is committed to working toward diversity, inclusion and equity within electricity sector. “And there are many organizations committed to doing this work, as well, that we’re proud to work alongside of,” she says, before adding. “But if we’re looking to break down the barriers, we can start with those in our own homes and look at the cultural gender expectations”.
Lana would like women of all colours to know they are welcome in the trades, and hopes it will become a first career choice. “Then, we’ll know we’ve made it.”
“Oftentimes, when students are going through high school, they’re actively told about opportunities at universities and colleges, but rarely are they made aware of the fact that we have over 140 skilled trades here in Ontario.”
Lana’s personal I’ve made it moment occurred a few years ago when she was asked to give a presentation on how she started in the trades. “And it was reflecting on that, on my early beginnings: from being a single parent to where I am now, and I was no longer struggling for an opportunity to prove myself. I was secure. I had made it.”
This is an excerpt from the Special Feature “Meet some of the women powering up Canada’s electrical sector”. You’ll find the full feature article—along with other great content—in the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Even more back issues are located in our Digital Archive.