All-female crew makes history with Transgrid

Isabel Shanahan and Chelsie Webster
Isabel Shanahan and Chelsie Webster

A little bit of history was made this week as the first all-female team completed a high-voltage switching job for Transgrid. The job was led by assistant system operator Sara Claassens at Wallgrove in Sydney with Chelsie Webster switching at Wellington Substation in the Central Western Slopes and Isabel Shanahan at Wallar in Central West NSW.

The switching was carried out on the 330kV line from Wollarto Wellington to allow footings for a tower to be installed for a new solar farm at Wallar.

Related article: Transgrid completes Snowy Mountain bushfire repairs

Job scheduler Isabel Shanahan has been with Transgrid for 33 years and said it was a first in her time with the network.

“When I first realised it was an all-female team it was really exciting. This wasn’t planned, it was just how it came together to have an all-female team. It’s good to see that women are starting to have a footprint in Transgrid,” she said.

Fellow scheduler Chelsie Webster said the fact it happened by coincidence made it even more special.

“I actually didn’t even realise at the time it was an all-female crew but Isabel rang me straight after the switching was completed and said do you realise we’ve just done the first all-female switching, and that was a pretty cool feeling,” she said.

Assistant system operator Sara Claassens, who was in the control room, said it was a great moment of camaraderie.

“Chelsie had just phoned in from her end of the job and then Isabel called in and we all had a smile as we realised what was happening. I’m incredibly proud to have been part of it.

“I love that we now have so many women coming up through the ranks that this just happened organically. We just sent the two closest staff and they both just happened to be women,” she said.

For Chelsie it had added significance. She started with Transgrid as an apprentice and pitched the idea of running a pre­-apprenticeship program just for women.

The first course was run earlier this year in conjunction with Belmont TAFE in Lake Macquarie and 14 women received hands­-on electrical training and an insight into career options in energy.

“I was very encouraged as a young female apprentice by the other ladies above me. I always looked up to them, every time things got difficult for me I just thought of them and thought they if they could do it then I can do this too. Hopefully sharing this moment will give other women encouragement too,” Chelsie said.

Related article: Transgrid delivers new playground for remote school 

Isabel said it is a positive sign of the changes Transgrid has put in place to recruit more women.

“Transgrid goes out of its way to say we’re here to support you if you want to take on a career in this industry. I am so happy to be a part of a company that is leading the drive  to allow more women into this industry,” she said.