Women’s History Month: A Spotlight on Women at NYCHA in Non-Traditional Careers
For the past 85 years, tens of thousands of women have worked at NYCHA, helping the Authority provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Currently, women make up nearly half of NYCHA’s employees. This year, we close Women’s History Month by featuring interviews with NYCHA employees working in non-traditional careers for women. (Watch a Spotlight on Women at NYCHA in Non-Traditional Careers here.) The U.S. Department of Labor defines a non-traditional career as any role where women are 25 percent or less of the total employed. In the U.S., only 6.6 percent of women worked full-time in male-dominated occupations in 2017. At NYCHA, these careers include maintenance workers, exterminators, carpenters, painters, plasterers, elevator mechanics, plumber’s/plumber’s helpers, heating plant technicians, and more.
Lillian Hernandez, Heating Superintendent
Ms. Hernandez has worked at NYCHA for 15 years. She began her career as a Caretaker J and was recently promoted to Property Maintenance Supervisor for the Heating Management Services Department.
Her responsibilities to residents: “I ensure that the residents are getting adequate hot water and heat. I have to inspect the boiler rooms and the tank rooms. I also have 32 employees under me, so I have to make sure that throughout the different shifts everybody’s in.”
On being a working woman in her field: “It’s awesome. It feels very good to come here; there’s not too many ladies on the field, it’s mainly guys, but everybody’s given me respect and they acknowledge me and it’s a very good feeling.”
Her advice to other women pursuing non-traditional careers: “Go for it. We all at some point are afraid, because you just don’t know sometimes what exactly you’re getting into, but just go for it. Put your heart into it, because everything can be possible; it’s just a matter of what you want and where do you want to be.”
On her recent promotion and being a leader: “I feel honored. I’ve worked very hard; I really put myself, my heart, into everything to get here. My dream is to just keep moving up, keep learning.”
Aisha Caban, Superintendent of Heating Operations
Ms. Caban has been at NYCHA for 18 years. She began her career as a seasonal Caretaker, was one of the first female Burner Mechanics, and is Resident Buildings Superintendent in the Heating Management Services Department.
On feeling like a leader in her current role: “As a leader, I work with my staff like a team, and we try to address everything. Our first priority is our residents, dealing with the no heat, no hot water issues – that’s very important for me. My staff is a reflection of NYCHA and a reflection of me. We strive for excellence.”
Advice to other women in non-traditional careers at NYCHA: “I hope to inspire them to be great, to push forward through any challenges, any obstacles. They can do anything in this agency. Move up just like I did and not allow anyone to make them feel that they can’t do a certain position because of their gender. A lot of people think, ‘Oh I can’t do that, that’s not something I can do.’ But if you apply yourself, you can do anything. Don’t let anything nor anyone discourage you, and move forward with whatever it is you want to accomplish in the agency. There’s so much opportunity here, and I made it up the ranks without a problem. I think anyone could.”
Jessica Wingate, Maintenance Worker
Ms. Wingate began her career at NYCHA in 2007 as a Caretaker J at Van Dyke Houses and has been a Maintenance Worker at Kingsborough Houses for the past five years.
On pursuing a non-traditional career: “I didn’t plan on it. I just have a thrill for things that are louder than me and give me a challenge. I was working with the tools as a Heating Plant Technician and someone said, ‘Jessica, I think you should try maintenance.’ I’ve grown a lot since I first started at NYCHA. I can now talk to any person, whether they’re young or old. I deal with a lot of people in my job, administrators, supervisors, residents.”
On being a role model to her daughter: “I tell my daughter she can do the same things men can do. At home there was an electrical issue and my daughter asked, ‘Mommy, are you going to call somebody?’ No, I’m going to do it, I know how to do it. She’s learning how to do certain things for herself, and she tells her friends, ‘My mommy can do this and that’; she’s proud of me.”
Advice to other women: “As women we can do anything! I would tell other women: be open minded but also passionate, to learn and to grow. I love this job, I love being in maintenance. I’m here to serve and make everyone happy. I love when residents say, ‘I need her to come back to my house,’ because they know I’m good at what I do, and I love what I do.”