Meet Kat Lakey, Ironworker
Out of approximately 1500 local union ironworkers in Portland, there are only six women — and Kat Lakey is one of them.
“I see ironwork as this classic view of what the construction world is like,” Kat says, recalling images of tough guys who cat-call and want to play around.
There are two broad categories of ironworkers – those who work on buildings, and those who work in the shops. The ironworkers in the shop fabricate the parts that will be erected and installed by the ironworkers who are out in the field.
Kat works out at construction sites. “When I stepped into ironworking I felt my body bulk up in different ways, and I feel a lot stronger in my life, not only physically but mentally. I also make a whole heck of a lot more money.”
Kat plans to continue as an ironworker until she reaches retirement age. “You have to enjoy this work to get up so early in the morning and meet up with a bunch of guys and tackle such a huge project.” When she tells people that she is an apprentice ironworker, they sometimes react with disbelief or they tell her she’s “awesome.”
“I think everybody deserves to have a great wage,” Kat says. “And if this is something that a woman is interested in, then she should go for it. I think you have to have a passion for the work, and if you don’t, then you’re not going to be successful. But other than that, as long as you’re ready to show up and take the initiative to do what it takes to do the job, then you’re in.”
Photo credit: Dawn Jones – Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.