The Sisters in Solidarity (SIS) group of IBEW Local No. 292, Minneapolis, was formed in 2013. SIS is a mentoring and support group for women electricians that focuses on developing leadership in its community and union.
In late 2016, members of SIS and women electricians representing IBEW Local No. 110 in St. Paul, Minn., volunteered their services to help construct a Habitat for Humanity home in the Twin Cities area. Typically, such homes are built by members of the public who donate their time, but they still must hire the skilled trades. Because the IBEW women volunteered to do the electrical work, the project did not need to pay electricians.
“We had 17 women on rough-in day,” said Jennifer Gaspersich, business representative for IBEW Local No. 292 and chairperson of its SIS group. “We have many reasons for wanting to complete a large project like a Habitat home. Our mission statement is ‘Empower women to be fully engaged members of the IBEW and civil society.’ This Habitat home helps us give back and be engaged.”
Another reason was to provide mentoring experiences for newer SIS members.
“This project gives us the opportunity to [do] just that,” she said. “Many of these women have never done residential wiring, so this is a great learning experience.”
While the project was rewarding to the IBEW volunteers, it was not without obstacles.
“The challenges have been the timelines,” she said. “Habitat works at a volunteer’s pace. The majority of us are used to keeping to deadlines. It’s a matter of being productive on work sites.”
Despite these challenges, Gaspersich and her colleagues would like to engage in more volunteer work in the future, including other Habitat homes. The group also currently does volunteer work at two women’s shelters in the Minneapolis area.
“Here, we arrange the volunteer work,” she said. “The contractor pulls the permits, and we meet with the inspectors when the project is complete.”
SIS has upgraded the receptacles in the 7-by-10-foot shelter bedrooms, since most of these rooms have multiple small children.
“We have also upgraded the lighting in the attic area that is used for storage of new donated items,” she said. “We have also done upgrades in the laundry facilities and kitchen areas.”