As a young mother of 28, with two children, Karen saw herself as Employee 084. She was the one of only five women in a factory of 160 employees. “I felt like a robot every day – punch-in, punch-out, come home, cook, clean, read bedtime stories, bath and then bed. Every day the same thing. “
Finally she couldn’t take it any more, and she left the job, left the marriage and moved away. She floundered for some time, entered another relationship that was disastrous and found herself completely alone with her children again, with no money and little hope.
Facing the choice of a shelter or moving in with her parents, she moved back home. While she knew she wanted to go back to school, she also knew she could not afford the expense and her confidence was at an all-time low.
In reflecting on her skills, she realized that as a young girl she liked using her hands. She used to take apart toasters that weren’t working and put them back together again. With her father and brothers all in the skilled trades, Karen decided why not, and in March 2003 was accepted in an electrical and network cabling pre-apprenticeship course.
She was the only girl in the class of sixteen men. “I was excited and nervous at the same time. I hadn’t been in a classroom for over sixteen years. It was extremely hard at first getting used to the homework, studying and being a mom at the same time.” Shares Karen.
But she did it, and in November 2003 she graduated with honours from the course. And in February of 2004 she started her business, Kennedy Electric and Cabling. She received the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for New Entrepreneur and her business took off.
As a female electrican in a male-dominated field, she’s heard it all, but she doesn’t let the negative comments get to her. “I know my job and I know my field and when they see me work, they realize pretty quickly that I am efficient and professional.”
As a role model to other women, Karen has taken the time to share her story. She does a lot of guest speaking and her message is always to believe in yourself and never give up hope. Or in Karen’s words “If you ever felt like there is no hope, think of your friendly 5’1” female electrician, who kicked her own butt and beat the odds.” She goes on to say “Hard work and a lot of faith will always pay off in the end. But it will never just come to you, you have to want it, and then go and get it.”
Karen Hatcher, Kennedy Electric & Cabling. Karen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen is one of the women profiled in Company of Women’s new book The Courage to Succeed: Inspiring Stories from Enterprising Women.