Ami Rasmussen is an interior assembly foreman at the Kinkisharyo railcar factory in Palmdale, CA. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Ami Rasmussen

Ami Rasmussen is an interior assembly foreman at the Kinkisharyo railcar factory in Palmdale, CA.

Ami is also the mother of two daughters, ages 17 and 15 years. “My girls are absolutely the most important thing to me,” Ami says.  “I’m a single mom, so everything revolves around them. Both of them are going to college on scholarships, fingers crossed!”

Ami started work at age 15, so that she and her dad could support their family.

Then, Ami says, “after 22 years in management, when my girls were old enough to understand what I was doing, I fulfilled a dream of mine that I’d had since I was 19, and joined the army to fulfill my obligation to my country.”   Ami served as a light vehicle mechanic in the U.S. Army for four years.  Her service included 7 months of training, away from her daughters.

After her military service, Ami struck up a conversation with another mother at one of their daughters’ soccer games.  The woman mentioned that Kinkisharyo was hiring mechanics at their Palmdale factory. “Then I came in for an interview, and they were pro-military, which is always nice,” Ami says. Eventually she was hired.

Today, Ami works on the Interior 2 team, with seven other men. “We probably touch the trains more than anyone else,” Ami says. “There is no typical day, here. We install seats, the rear locker, grab bars, pretty much anything you grab onto inside the train. We’ll build the actual locker, and others will install the electrical components. The tools I use vary, from screwdrivers to torque wrenches, to drills, to rivet guns.”

“The knowledge I got from the military really helped me here… just to know what a rachet is — the average woman might not know these things.”

When asked what it’s like to be one of a dozen women workers at the plant, Ami says, “there are pros and cons to working with so many men. You get razzed a little. It is very intimidating to come in and see a factory full of men.  But my male coworkers here are better than I expected, I got open arms from every one of the guys.  Plus, I was in charge of 78 guys in the military, so I thought, ‘I got this.’”

Asked why there are few women in the railcar manufacturing industry, Ami suggests, “because it’s heavy labor, and they may not know if they can compete, since there are a bunch of men counting on you to do things.  We should do more to let women know there’s something like this available to them. Women might think they can’t lift anything heavy, but they’d be surprised that they can do this! Better than half the guys! Smaller hands can even reach the components better.”

“I participated in the ‘Women Can Build’ project because I want to inspire others,” Ami says. Above all, I want to prove to my girls that they can do anything they put their minds to and commit to. I want to lead by example, to them and to other women, to show that anything is possible!”
“A lot of people just talk. I want to lead by example.”