Connie McCoy is the only woman who works in the traction motor department in the Siemens factory in Norwood, Ohio. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Connie McCoy

Connie McCoy is the only woman who works in the traction motor department in the Siemens factory in Norwood, Ohio.

I’ve been with Siemens for 24 years, and I’m staying with them until I retire. Our part of Siemens works with electrical motors. This traction motors project started before I came in, around 2009. New York was the first project where we made traction motors, I came in the middle of the second project for PATH, and the third project we’re working on now is Amtrak. Since we’ve had all these clients, it’s booming.  High speed rail is booming.

Before that I was in coils.  The copper was brought in, and we were forming the coils and insulating them with tape and stuff. I did that for 17 years. For four years I was a lead. There were the most women working in the coils department.

Almost five years ago, a bid [job opening] for the traction motors came up on the [bulletin] board, and I had the seniority. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about it. But I thought to myself, “you know, Connie, this is something new. I’m just gonna go for it.” I’m always up for a challenge.

Now, I’m the only woman in the traction motors department. I’ve really enjoyed working there. The men are really helpful to me. I’ve never had a problem working with men, although some of them are kinda old-fashioned.  I knew going in that they were gonna show me what to do but not do it for me. And I didn’t want them to!

I do a variety of different jobs. I test the gear.  I build the rotor that goes into the motor, turning the bars down, and sanding and swedging bars into the rotor so they don’t come out.  And I can detail. I put couplers in.  I might go and mask a part, and get it ready for paint.

These are not easy jobs.  When you thinking about detailing, you think of putting some stickers.  But it’s not like that. A lot of it is very time-consuming.  It’s a large piece of equipment. and we have QA inspect our axles and the motor and gear to make sure it’s completely finished.

I use the crane a lot: I’ve learnt the crane is my best friend.  Some of the parts weigh 40 pounds.

Our goal is to manufacture four motors and four gears per week.

I really have enjoyed working at Siemens. They’ve been good to me. I got to go to Germany for two and a half weeks, when we started the Amtrak project. Germany is our mother company, but under the contract with Amtrak everything has to be made in America.  My supervisor and a couple people went to the factory in Nuremberg.  I did the Christmas market there, and it was really nice.  

Right now I work 40 hours/week. There is overtime available, but I’m a caregiver for my mother, who is 81. And I recently I moved my sister in with me because things have gotten even tighter.  When I walk in the door [at home] at night, my job’s not over, it just started.

Family’s first, that’s number one.   I have one daughter, who lives about 30 minutes away.  I love to be with grandkids Olivia and Jackson, who are 6 and 2 years old. They are my world.  Of course, Olivia is a princess from Frozen and Jackson’s a wolf, for Halloween.

I always told my daughter, don’t ever say you can’t do anything.  You can always try, and if you fail, you can always dust yourself off and go on. My daughter has climbed up the corporate ladder really well. She says, “every time that an opportunity comes to me, I think about what you say: you can always try!” We’re not gonna succeed at everything. But you’ve gotta try.

Women Can Build means women are starting to be recognized and that they can do more than just the “womanly” jobs.  Give them a chance and let them prove themselves. Women can be just as — in some cases more — productive as a man.

I think a lot of it is because women are just not knowledgable because they’re sectioned off from the heavier work like motors and stuff.  I think that a [transportation manufacturing] company really should take people from different areas and show them different things. There’s not enough exposure for the women.  I think a company should get women more involved and take them to different parts of the factory.   So that you won’t be so intimidated when a job comes up on the board. Maybe our union (IUE-CWA Local 84765) can help.

We have another project coming along, and I would like to see other women coming up, asking questions, and seeing if there’s something they can do.  If you’ve got the seniority, bid on those jobs!