Tower climbing is one of the few remaining fields that seems to be over 95% male dominated. While rare, female tower climbers are not unheard of. In 2005, the US saw less than a dozen female tower climbers, the numbers aren’t much higher almost a decade later.
Unlike the majority of the jobs in the US, the difference in pay between gender is relatively low. Meaning that instead of making $.75 on the dollar compared to men, women in this field can expect a competitive salary. Physical demands can be over come the same way men overcome them… working out. Some employers have even commented that female tower climbers tend to be more organized and more likely to follow the rules than their male co-workers.
Why then aren’t more women applying for these high paying jobs? One of the key reasons is that it is harder to reach out to women who might be interested through mainstream media. Women have time and time again proven themselves as exemplary in the armed forces, but despite this, only a few companies are addressing creative ways to reach out to qualified female candidates.
One of the first women to take on a “hands-on” roll in the tower climbing and erection field was Pat Cipov. In 1978, at the age of 28, Pat (then Turner) quit her job as a CPA and went to work for her brother-in-laws tower company based out of Sumter, SC. In 1980, she formed a partnership with Mick Cipov, who later became her husband.
Mick taught Pat how to operate the hoist, she eventually took on the role of hoist operator and bookkeeper. She learned a lot over the next few years, including the formation of safety rules when NATE was formed. She recalls how at her companied inception, safety guidelines were passed down from person to person. When her company instituted formal safety rules, initially the bottom line was affected, eventually though profits improved over what they had been due to the improved efficiency.
Cipov’s mentor during her career was a former sales manager for a tower manufacturer, a man named Brown Sanders. She recalls that she would “ask one question and we’d be talking for an hour or more… he would explain everything in detail.” In 1998, Cipov retired from climbing, but she lost none of her passion for the profession
Cipov began working with NATE, and won election to the board in 2000. Since that time she has become a strong advocate for safety. Just because she is southern and a woman does not make her a push over, despite her gentility, Cipov possesses a tough-mind, apparent professionalism, and is just as demanding as anyone of her male counter parts. She believes that women can be excellent member of a tower crew, but she cautions both women and men that asking for assistance for something to physically demanding should not be troubling.
Cipov is just one of the women who has made her mark on this field. Women should be encouraged to apply for these jobs if they are so inclined, without fear of reprisal. Just as more men are becoming nurses, the gender lines between career paths are beginning to blur, creating more opportunities that were once merely dreamed of.