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Energy and Green Intiatives, Weatherization

Women of Weatherization (#11)

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has been around for over 40 years and has served over 7.4 million households, saving families money and making their homes healthier and safer. From the very beginning of the WAP’s history, women have been a driving force in weatherization. This post is part of a month long feature for Women’s History Month. Each post will highlight a few of the women working across the country in the Weatherization Assistance Program. You can join the conversation on social media with the hashtag: #WomenOfWAP

Featured in this post…

Abby Kemp- Utility Programs Manager, Virginia

Jean Marie Warren– Program Manager, California

Delores Holloway- Project Manager, North Carolina

Syreeta Morrisey- Interim Project Director, North Carolina


 

Abby Kemp

Utility Programs Manager, project:HOMES, Virginia

abby

1.How did you first get interested and involved in weatherization?

Honestly, by accident! I have a background in energy, so an old coworker of mine connected me with project:HOMES and my current boss, Kerri Walker. I immediately knew that she was someone I could learn a lot from and wanted to work with. It wasn’t until later that I discovered an appreciation for weatherization—it’s the perfect blend of science and giving back to the community, so it was a great fit for me.

2.Tell us about your current and past roles in the WAP.

When I started at project:HOMES I was the first person in a newly created position, and had the opportunity to wear a bunch of different hats in the Weatherization department. I later transitioned into my current role as Utility Programs Manager – managing our first Utility-funded program and partnership with Dominion Energy. I enjoy this position not only because it allows project:HOMES to help more people in a greater capacity, but I  have also helped developed a strong partnership with Dominion Energy. This partnership allows us to take part in projects and serve populations we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

3.What is it like being a woman in weatherization? Advantages? Challenges?

Weatherization and building science have notoriously been male-dominated fields. For that reason, I feel that there are advantages to being a woman, because I think differently and bring a unique perspective to situations in comparison to my male counterparts. Having these different mindsets and approaches to problem-solving strengthens our team and the work we do, because there is not a “one size fits all” solution to many of the challenges we face. On the flipside, there are definitely times when I feel like I am not taken as seriously simply because I am a woman in a “man’s world,” but I like to use those moments as fuel to better myself and prove disprove gender stereotypes.

4.Why do you work in weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

I honestly feel like we’re making a difference in people’s’ lives with the work we do every day at project:HOMES. This work has transformed my view of what low-income means and reminds me that sometimes people just need a little support. It is a privilege to be able to extend a helping hand to those we serve through weatherization. From a programmatic standpoint, I love the curveballs we are thrown and the opportunity to turn them into something useful. So much of nonprofit work is doing the best with what you have, and I really enjoy the creative solutions that are a result of that mindset.

5. Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the weatherization field?

It’s tough, it’s dirty, but it’s worth it. If you’re looking for a way to build your technical knowledge while getting to be hands on and help people, weatherization could be for you!


Jean Marie Warren

Program Manager, Central Valley Opportunity Center, California

1.How did you first get interested and involved in weatherization?

In 1977, I was working in Mariposa County, CA operating both employment and training and energy programs.  The Weatherization Program kind of just fell in my lap as the office was very small with only 3 full time staff.  During this initial period, I basically started from scratch as I was just 21 years old and this was my first “real” job.   I had no prior experience in housing or construction, nor was this of a particular interest to me at the time. However as I became involved in the development of a weatherization assistance program, I realized the importance of providing these services to the low-income and the difference it made in both their home safety, comfort and savings on their energy bills.  This is not the most positive beginning, but sometimes things just happen for a reason.

2.Tell us about your current and past roles in the WAP.

I am currently the Program Manager of all the Energy Services Programs for Central Valley Opportunity Center in California and have been in this capacity for about 32 years.  Previously I worked for Mariposa County for 6 years and worked 2 years as Energy Program Manager for Merced Community Action Agency. So all in all I have been working in weatherization and energy program management for over 40 years.  Since all the agencies I have worked for are small to medium agencies with limited staffing, I have worked in direct crew supervision, billing, accounting, program design and management, intake/outreach. Current I am managing 4 different energy programs as well as a special water saving project for another agency in CA.

3.What is it like being a woman in weatherization? Advantages? Challenges?

Over my 40 years of working in these programs, the challenges for women working in weatherization are similar today as 40 years ago, albeit to a lesser degree in the Community Action arena.  Male dominated fields are generally very difficult for younger women. During my early years, when I was in my 20’s and working in weatherization, I was actually laughed at when I would explain I was the Manager of the Energy and Weatherization Programs and in meetings, often I was ignored as I was young and a female.  It was not a deterrent to me, but I imagine some women may not have wanted to remain working in weatherization back in the 70’s and 80′ as it was pretty difficult to work with mostly all men who generally treated you as a outsider.

Today it is much easier for women to work in male dominated fields such as weatherization, but I imagine there are still challenges.  I think one advantage of being a women supervisor of mostly men working in weatherization crews was my ability to defuse situations when tensions arose between field crews.  Women seem to have better oral and written communications skills which is essential when assisting weatherization staff in understanding complex rules and regulations Women also tend to be more detailed oriented and have more patience when trying to work out problems and find solutions.  I know some of the men that I supervised on various crews were a little put off having to report to a much younger female, but I think times have changed, at least in this respect, as I doubt some of the comments made to me back in the 70’s and 80’s would be tolerated in today’s work environment.  

4.Why do you work in weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

My answer, at this point in my life is; because it is what I know, what I feel I am good at and what makes me get up and go to work.  There is a certain satisfaction that you get when your clients send you emails, cards, letters thanking you and your staff for the work that was done on their home.  But all in all I have enjoyed this ride and when it is time for me to retire, I will leave this portion of my job knowing that the work I did helped so many people. I think that is what it is all about for me.  

5.Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the weatherization field?

If you want to work in this field, just go for it.  Sometimes it will not be easy and it is true you have to work a little harder to get recognized in a male dominated field, but the challenge is sometimes part of the eventual gratification.  It is always best to be true to yourself and your goals and not let others dissuade you.


Delores Holloway

Project Manager, Action Pathways, NC

Delores

1.How did you first get interested and involved in weatherization?

I start on the job training 1982 to learn new skills

2.Tell us about your current and past roles in the WAP.

Currently Project Manager,  past roles include a crew member (glazing windows, feeding insulation machine, etc.), completing the work orders, inventory, and supervising others.

3.What is it like being a woman in weatherization? Advantages? Challenges?

Challenges are that others sometimes don’t think that I can do a good job. Getting to meet new people and making other happy are advantages.

4.Why do you work in weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

To see the smiles on clients’ faces knowing that then no longer have to choose between food, light bill, and medicine.

5.Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the weatherization field?

It’s a great field for a people-person and if you enjoy helping others!


Syreeta Morrisey

Interim Project Director, Action Pathways, North Carolina

1.How did you first get interested and involved in weatherization?

I started in WAP as an Intake Program Specialist.

2.Tell us about your current and past roles in the WAP.

I am currently the Interim Program Director. I have worked in WAP in various roles. The different positions consist of Program Specialist, Outreach Coordinator, Administrative Supervisor and Project Manager.

3.What is it like being a woman in weatherization? Advantages? Challenges?

The advantage is that the job is rewarding. The challenge is that it’s a “man’s” work force and you constantly have to prove yourself.

4.Why do you work in weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

I work in Weatherization because of benefit to the community and the benefit to the customer in reducing the energy burden. I am grateful to know that what we do allows families to take money saved and use in other areas of need in the household.

5.Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the weatherization field?

The jobs is rewarding and ever changing which allows for constant career development and growth.

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