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Oral Interview (December 21, 2004) Real Media | MP3 Transcript (pdf)

Thanks to Joi Beard and the other women who paved the way, more of today's young women are choosing to become electricians.

Watch a short video in which several electricians tell why they love their work and why the trade is a great career choice for a woman.

Joi Beard was born into a blue-collar family in Kentucky. In 1979 she entered the apprenticeship program of IBEW Local 369 in Louisville. Within two weeks of entering the program, she began her first job, working for a small contractor in Louisville. She accompanied the owner on daily service calls, which exposed her to many aspects of the electrician’s trade. Their field trips together functioned like an informal classroom. He quizzed her on terms and taught her the lore of the trade. On slow days she worked with him in the shop.

Beard completed her apprenticeship in 1984. The next year she followed her future husband and other Louisville electricians to New York City, where jobs were then plentiful. She had the approval of her home local and Local 3 to work as a traveler. Her first job there, with L.K. Comstock, was at the Javits Convention Center. From May through October her crew of ten installed 45,000 feet of pipe for air conditioning controls. She was the only female on her crew and one of nine women electricians at the Javits Center.

Beard moved from being an electrician to setting up her own company, Derby Electric. She was certified as an electrical inspector for New York City and worked on a variety of jobs. In July 1995 she incorporated her business and received her electrical contractor’s license two months later.

Besides running her successful business, Beard teaches at the Local 3 apprenticeship program. She also has taught courses at Nontraditional Employment for Women and the Consortium for Workers Education Program.

In her interview Beard relates the story of her journey from apprentice to electrical contractor and mentor.

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