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Climbing high to power past gender stereotypes

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 6:05 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - If you have a fear of heights, there are just certain jobs that are not meant for you. Climbing power poles would probably be one of those.

But one woman from Oconto decided to break gender stereotypes and do it anyway.

In a field typically dominated by men, we find Kieran Wusterbarth.

“It’s a typical ‘Kieran’ thing to do to just go out there and do something random that nobody expects to do,” says Wusterbarth, a student in Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s electrical power distribution program.

Her family expected the recent Oconto High School grad to go to school for a desk job.

“I was supposed to be an accountant,” she says, laughing, but those plans abruptly changed after a field trip to the college.

“It was kind of a split-second decision type of thing,” says Wusterbarth. “I didn’t have any experience with it, no knowledge of it. Nothing. And now I like it a lot.”

Being the only woman in the college’s 22-person electrical power distribution program doesn’t phase her, but it’s not common.

“I’ve been here since 2008, and Kieran is my second female student,” says Peter Mleziva, her instructor.

When she completes the program early next year, Wusterbarth will become only the 10th woman to complete NWTC’s program since it began 35 years ago.

“Not anybody can do this job. It takes a special someone. When I say that, you have to not be afraid of heights, have to be willing to work in adverse conditions and all those things,” says Mleziva. “Kieran has the same goal as anybody else in this program. She wants to get the job and make a difference.”

It may be challenging and physically grueling, but Mleziva has not once heard her complain.

“There’s sometimes I’ll look at something and I’m like, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that, but it’s just getting over that initial reaction and working through it,” she says. “I started working out a lot more so I’m able to lift as much as the guys can and do stuff like that.”

A career fixing and maintaining our power grid could take Wusterbarth around the country to repair damages from natural disasters.

It’s a high-demand field that pays well, usually more than $50,000 a year starting out, but that’s not her motivation.

“One of the reasons I chose to do this was because I can make a difference in people’s lives, and everybody needs power, so knowing that I can be one of the people that can help put it back on, get everything working for people, I really enjoy doing that,” says Wusterbarth

She’s inspiring others, including her family, proving if you reach for dreams with drive and determination, the sky’s the limit.

“They’re super proud of me for doing it. Yeah, they’re over the moon!”

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