Jordan Demartino climbs towards the top of a power pole in a bucket truck.
On a cool South Carolina morning, Duke Energy electrical linemen shift their gaze toward the sky as their colleague rises above them in a bucket truck.
Jordan Demartino's blonde ponytail peeks out from underneath her white safety helmet. She's quiet as she reaches the top and gets to work connecting a line from a transformer along a rural road to a new light she's installing in a customer's backyard.
Demartino doesn't present herself as the unicorn she actually is -- one of only five women among the roughly 2,500 lineworkers Duke Energy employs.
The job can be demanding: Crews often work around the clock in miserable conditions during severe weather and power outages. Strength and agility are a must as lineworkers are required to lift heavy equipment up towering poles and through underground tunnels. Anyone afraid of heights or tight spaces need not apply.
Demartino, 22, says the guys were a bit surprised to have her join the team two years ago.
"When they heard they were getting a girl at work, they were like, 'What? Have people lost their mind?'" she said.
But high-voltage work makes sense for women seeking a trade where they can earn good salaries and equal pay. The jobs aren't hard to come by as experienced lineworkers grow older and retire.
The nation's power grid also is aging, requiring a constant stream of work by electric companies nationwide. With overtime, salaries can easily soar into the six-figure range.
But lineworker training programs are still struggling to enroll willing female candidates.
“So whatever you touch, women are in a bad space, as a result of the pandemic” and the underlying discrimination “that has always been there,” she said. “This therefore suggests that building back better is about gender equality, just as it’s about green economies and any equitable sharing of resources.”
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