International Women’s Day is for celebrating the accomplishments of women and recognizing the work still needed to be done to achieve gender equality. This day is an important reminder that the journey towards gender equality is ongoing. It is a day to celebrate what it means to be a woman and inspire action towards a more equitable world for all. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion.
Equity has had the tendency to not be a focused practice within the workplace; however society has come a long way. Workplaces in many male-dominated industries, including construction, are growing and evolving as new laws and practices have been rolled out to allow women more access to good paying positions.
To truly embrace equity means to believe in, value and take steps to achieve gender equality. Join the Valley Line Southeast LRTproject team as we #EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day. Here are some inspiring women who support the project from the Gerry Wright Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMF).
Sheren Elrashedy, OCC Line Controller Supervisor
Elrashedy is embracing equity by striking the IWD pose to show solidarity for all the wonderful women out there
Elrashedy’s path into the Operations Control Centre (OCC) is proof that if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and put in the effort, you can achieve your goals.
In 2021, she began her career by working for TransEd as a security guard at the OMF. Shortly after starting, she learned TransEd was hiring train drivers. She liked the idea of driving trains as a career and spoke with her boss about applying for the position. He encouraged her to apply and she was selected for the driver training program. At the time, TransEd had only hired three female drivers.
Elrashedy was determined to prove herself and join the ranks of female transit operators. She took her training seriously and was determined to learn as much as she could. Sheren’s advice for women looking to get a start in the transit industry is, “Don’t be afraid, take a chance. Don’t waste it.”
Driving the train came easy for Elrashedy. Her first time in the driver’s seat was a day she will never forget. Her trainer complimented her saying she “was the smoothest driver and they couldn’t believe that she hadn’t driven a train before.”
She proved herself as a competent and confident train driver before setting her sights on her next career move—Line Control Supervisor in the Operations Control Centre. Again, Elrashedy approached her manager and was encouraged to apply.
As the successful candidate, Elrashedy spent many hours studying to learn her new role. She now spends most of her days in the control room monitoring the locations of the trains, controlling their movements via the drivers and keeping an eye on all the CCTV cameras.
“TransEd has always been a welcoming place for women. Everyone is friendly and excited to be at work. As a driver these people felt like family” she said.
For this International Women’s Day, Elrashedy is embracing equity and shares what it means to her to have equity in the workplace: “It is to have the same opportunity that others have, regardless of someone’s background or their experience; everyone needs the opportunity to learn.”
Cathy Calahoo, Maintenance Technician
Calahoo is embracing equity by striking the IWD pose to show solidarity for all the wonderful women working on the project
Calahoo is a Newfoundlander who has never shied away from taking on new challenges. She has worked as a paralegal, IT specialist in web development, and telecommunications support, before setting her sights on becoming an electrician.
Cutting her teeth in the industry wasn’t easy for Calahoo. As a woman and a Newfoundlander, she found it difficult to break into unionized work and was denied when she first applied; however, she was determined to get there. She even applied to non-union electrician roles directly at job sites with little success. Eventually, Calahoo saw an ad for a greenhorn (novice) program and she immediately applied. However, because she was a woman, they didn’t think she was committed to the trade and sent her away to prove she was willing to put in the work. “I can do anything I put my mind to, right?” Which she later ended up doing.
Her advice to anyone looking to start their career is “in a male-dominated field, don’t be afraid of anything” she said. During Calahoo’s schooling she had many mentors who encouraged her to keep going and who made a huge impact when it came to helping her overcome career obstacles.
For example,Calahoo spent three months working with Habitat for Humanity under a supportive journeyman who saw her determination. He called the organisation that was offering the greenhorn program and told them that she was serious and dedicated to becoming an electrician.
Through her perseverance, she was able to prove women are just as capable as men. In fact, Calahoo went on to become a Journeyman, Master Electrician.
Calaho began working on the Valley Line Southeast project during the construction phase while working for a subcontractor to TransEd. After finishing her contract, she applied for a permanent position with the maintenance team. Now, she inspects and maintains the electrical systems that she helped to install, including the overhead catenary system, the telephone system, the security cameras and the wireless radio network.
Calahoo shared that over the years, she has seen a huge change in the treatment towards women in trades. “Many more women are becoming electricians now. My last job had 14 women electricians working,” she said. She also noticed that as the older workforce retires and the new generation takes over, she is seeing more and more positive change for women in the workplace.
Nicole Pichette, OCC Duty Manager
Pichette is embracing equity by striking the IWD pose to show solidarity for all the women working in the transit industry.
Working on railways is in Nicole’s DNA. Her grandfather, father, and brother have all had long, successful careers in the rail industry. After graduating from university with a major in Art History, Nicole found herself following in the footsteps of her family members, working on a short line railroad up in Grand Prairie. Eventually, Nicole became a rail traffic controller with CN Rail, where she worked for 15 years.
Nicole’s experience as a rail traffic controller made her a great fit for the OCC Duty Manager position at TransEd because she worked hard and proved herself to everyone. In this role she oversees the Line Control Supervisors, dispatches maintenance when needed, and is responsible for communicating any emergencies to Emergency Dispatch and her counterpart at the ETS Operations Control Centre.
When asked about why she would tell someone to consider her job she said “It’s different every day. You’re never stuck in a pattern from day to day, you never know what you are coming into and there are different challenges everyday.”
Nicole has worked in her role at TransEd for about a year and a half. With the Valley Line Southeast project now in the testing and commissioning phase, she appreciates the team can see the finish line. “It’s great to see the team accomplishing all their goals and getting the testing done,” she said.
For International Women’s Day, Nicole is embracing equity as she says, “It’s great to see other cultures and more women in rail. It’s fantastic. That’s what I have seen over the past 20 years that has changed a lot.”
“I’m just happy that this entire industry — the transportation industry — is opening up more to women. Do you want to be a train driver? Do it. It’s not an obstacle anymore as it was when I started way back when,” she said about anyone trying to enter the industry.
A bright future for Women in Transit
International Women’s Day is a significant event that serves as a reminder of the achievements of women throughout history and the ongoing work that is still being done. These powerful stores highlight how women in transit are leading the way for those to come after them. We must continue to take action towards creating a world where women can have respect and equal opportunities within the industry they work in.
Together the women of the Valley Line Southeast LRT project are #EmbracingEquity.