December 28, 2015
Casey Cunningham is thin but agile and strong. She is only 5’6” yet her height does not make a difference as she moves steel cable, shovels dirt and operates heavy equipment.
Casey is part of a construction crew for M&M Pipelines, she likes her team and has traveled from job to job with the same crew for the past three years. They know each other very well and work together knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. As the pipeline construction industry in West Virginia grows, so do the jobs and as Casey exemplifies, the jobs aren’t just for the guys.
According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, the percentage of women in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton area working in all construction industries in 2011 has increased slightly to 12.8 percent from 11.8 percent five years ago. A total of 1,078 women worked in construction in 2011 in the area and 28,080 statewide. Locally, 315 women worked in Marcellus Shale-related construction industries in 2011 and 7,508 statewide.
Casey does not appear to be concerned about “barriers” for women, it is a job she enjoys. She works alongside the men, never thinking for a moment there are any differences in their capabilities. Unlike others, she does not appear to need to prove herself every day, she is already tough and one of the guys.
“It’s a challenge out here and you learn stuff every day. I grew up on a farm, working outdoors doing manual farm work. This is no different, I prefer to work outdoors. Desk jobs are not for me. Working for M&M is a good opportunity for women to be in the construction world and learn the trade the same as a man” Casey said.
Casey, a single mother, said her family has been supportive over the years as she works long hours, and sometimes encounters problems like extended work hours.
Casey loves her job choice in the construction industry, which offers a good salary.
“Due to the many construction opportunities in the Marcellus Shale region, finding good and experienced crews can be a challenge,” stated M&M Pipelines President Joe Marlar. “Gender is not a factor when hiring, people are hired based on their experience and ability to do the work.”