Source: Arkansas Business
Sara Russell-Lingo is the first woman to claim a certain title at Entergy Arkansas, and that in itself made the title outdated.
She is the company’s first female “lineman,” and fine with that. “I don’t pay it much mind,” said Russell-Lingo, 25, whose red hair flowing from her hardhat easily distinguishes her from the other 550 or so Entergy Arkansas linemen. She’s the only woman, a pioneer for the state’s largest electric utility.
“From a communications perspective, we’ve been kind of shifting toward getting ourselves to use the word line ‘worker’ rather than line ‘man’ for a couple of years now,” said David Lewis, a senior communications specialist at the investor-owned power company. “Sara just accelerated that process considerably.” “Lineperson” has been another option.
Title aside, Russell-Lingo started field work for Entergy in May and has climbed her way above the glass ceiling.
But what makes a young woman yearn to climb a utility pole or work with lethal high-voltage electricity? “I wanted a career, and there had been something on [KATV-TV, Channel 7,] about the training program,” Russell-Lingo said.
Electricity Runs in Family
Electricity, too, was in her blood. Russell-Lingo’s grandfather, Carroll Russell, a Jacksonville electrician, saw the TV news story about the lineman training program and urged her to apply.
In short order, Russell-Lingo was working at Lowe’s, attending H-VOLT and making inroads with Entergy, which is a primary supporter of the academy.
The company liked her scores and leadership skills, and after a couple of attempts at Entergy’s written test, Russell-Lingo passed and was assigned to Line Supervisor Bert Wilson in Little Rock.
An eight-week Entergy boot camp for linemen followed in Jackson, Mississippi, where the daily diet was pole-climbing, repair exercises and constant repetition of safety practices. If she completes her four-year lineman apprenticeship, Russell-Lingo will be a journeyman.
While Russell-Lingo wants to be treated equally, customers do notice she’s no regular lineman. “I pulled up to this house one time and got out of the truck and put my hard hat on and everything. This girl looks at her mom and says, ‘Mom, it’s Superwoman!’”
The physical demands of the job are tough but not overwhelming if you work smart and leverage your tools and techniques, Russell-Lingo said. Fate made her not particularly mechanically inclined, but she has always been scrupulous about fitness.
“I love the outdoors, and I do a lot of running, biking and hiking,” she said. “As a woman, if you want to work this kind of job you have to maintain your physical fitness.”
She also had no undue fear of heights. “Never really bothered me,” she said.
But in some ways, the job “can still be very challenging,” Russell-Lingo said.
“As the only woman, some of the guys treat me like I’m one of them. Some treat me like I’m not the same, you know, like a sibling. Some feel like I don’t belong. But like I always say, nothing good in life comes easy. As a pioneer, I’m here to prove myself.”