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First woman ‘lineman’ at Manitoba Hydro

WINNIPEG — For decades women have worked alongside men in almost every field of employment, but that wasn’t the case for linemen at Manitoba Hydro until Jessica Hadfield came along.

After four years of work and countless hours of studying in the classroom, Hadfield will celebrate her accomplishments on Friday and will get her diploma, becoming the first woman lineperson in Manitoba.

The 29-year-old from Selkirk will climb hydro poles and fix power lines as the first woman to complete the program in its 60-year history.

“I just assumed there’d be a couple chicks in every trade,” said Hadfield.

Winnipeg’s first woman police officer started in 1912, the first woman firefighter in 1988; now Hadfield’s name can be added to the list of women breaking barriers.

When she’s not climbing poles dressed in overalls, Jessica admits she’s a girly girl.

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She brings some of her personality to work — she painted all her tools pink.

“Yeah, I usually don’t lose any tools,” Hadfield joked.

“I was shocked, dumbfounded even,” said Fiona Green, women’s and gender studies professor at the University of Winnipeg. “I would suggest it’s going to be a big culture shift for the men that have been in that trade all these years to have a woman present.”

But Hadfield’s co-workers said she fits right in.

“I think it’s refreshing, to be honest with you. It brings a whole different spectrum to the trade,” said Mike Forbes of Manitoba Hydro.

“At first I felt pretty pressured by it because I thought everyone was watching me, wondering if I’d be okay or not,” said Hadfield, who now hopes she’s opened the door for more women to follow in her boots.

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