Christine Austria-Lozoya On a Constant Mission to Empower Women
An IBEW Local 11 member since 2004 and Journeyman Sound Installer since 2008, Christine Austria-Lozoya has served in leadership roles since 2018, when she joined as a Sound Organizer. In 2021 she was the first woman elected Recording Secretary, and in 2022 she also transitioned to Business Agent. We caught up with her about her new roles, her efforts to empower other women, and her vision for the future.
How has your leadership at IBEW evolved over the years?
When I was asked to be on staff as a Sound Organizer, it was surprising because to be honest I never thought of myself in this role. My mind was always on the trade. I had to be out in field, I became a foreman, working my way up. I was very involved within my unit (Sound and Telecommunications). I did political work, door knocking, precinct walks, phone banking – so people start to recognize you.
Being in these roles, you have to think of other people’s wants and needs, and they’re not all the same. You’re a psychologist, you’re a disciplinarian. It’s very challenging, because you’re not going to please everyone. And, you’d better have a thick skin, because there are going to be jabs, especially as a woman. But it is rewarding. It’s very humbling and it’s an honor to do this: It’s a privilege – not a right.
How are you working to involve more women in leadership?
We are trying to get a women’s committee chartered, because we don’t have one here yet. And we also have EMPOWER, through the (NECA-IBEW) Electrical Training Center, where the goal is to pair journeyman with apprentices as mentors.
There are women out in the field I worked with and watched grow. I put that little bug in superintendents’ ears and say, ‘Look, she may be overlooked. You should take a better look at what she’s doing – she works hard, gets the job done, she’s smart.’ It’s only fair. So, I do try to advocate for (women) out in the field. And a lot of supervisors, it does open their eyes to it.
To see a woman in (my) position (as recording secretary), that’s a sense of, ‘You can do this. You can be here if you want to.’ It just takes that visual: If one woman can do it, we all can.
What barriers do you see impacting women who might otherwise be interested in joining the trade?
It’s hard as a woman, because there are not that many (of us). Empowering, teaching and advancing women in our trade is a main goal. Women are very articulate, they’re multitaskers. We are extremely strong. That’s something I instill in my own children. Not all men will embrace a female in the construction industry. We don’t live in a utopian world, but slowly but surely, more women are getting into it.
How are you finding ways to mentor the younger generation?
I go to these meetings, and I speak to women. When they’re in the application process, I have them call me. I let them know what being out in the construction field is all about. I try to make them understand what they’re getting themselves into. I try to empower them in advance.
What are some challenges you face as a female in leadership?
I think the challenge for me is the respect. You still get some individuals that may overlook you or may not want to hear your thoughts. Not just IBEW – outside, everything. It’s discouraging. My mom always instilled in me, ‘Roll your shoulders back, sit up straight.’ I tell my girls and other women coming in, ‘When I sit there and feel I may be disrespected or dismissed, I have to remember [that].’ Sometimes you just have to demand that respect.
How is the role of women evolving at IBEW? What have you personally seen since joining in 2004?
Would I like for it to be faster? Yes. But it is evolving. We had (former IBEW member) Liz Shuler just become president of AFL-CIO. We had Gina Cooper become vice president for IBEW International. I have a lot of male coworkers, even out in the field, who mentored me to get here. I see it more, I do: there are more men here willing to rally behind women, and to help them.
I never said I wanted to be president. I never said I wanted to be business manager. What I wanted to do was have a contribution within this Local. I’ll be there because of my contribution to help get more women in the trade. I joke with (IBEW President) Rusty (Roten) that I’ll be the president. And maybe that’s where it starts; maybe you put that out in the universe. I’ll let my work guide me there.
I just want to see IBEW flourish. I want to be active. I want to see us evolve in a more diverse way. Even if I’m not in a leadership role, I want to see this local evolve and become more diverse – and see that diversity within my lifetime.