August 6, 2001
Blazing her trail
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
The first time the position of building mechanic in the Dobbs Center came open, Mary Woods passed it by.
A tradesworker in the P.E Center at the time, Woods just didnt
feel confident about making what would represent a huge step forward in
many different ways.
No women had ever held the position of building mechanic, a person responsible
for maintaining the lights, ballasts, plumbing and HVAC systems (among
other things) for an individual building. And the DUC was one of Emorys
jewelsa prestigious assignment.
I didnt feel like I was ready to take on extra responsibilities,
said Woods, who had spent three years as a custodian in the P.E. Center
before being promoted to tradesworker. I was used to having someone
there, like a crutch. I didnt feel like it was time for me to move
on, even though a lot of other people thought I was [ready].
That was August 2000. But when the position opened up again this summer,
Woods didnt hesitate. She applied for it and got the job, taking
over as the DUCs building mechanic June 24.
With fewer students on campus over the summer, the transition has been
pretty smooth, but the workload hardly has been light. Once recent morning,
Woods changed out the ballasts, lights and transformers on a set of light
fixtures, fixed a couple of leaks and pointed a group of painters to where
they needed to go. All of that was just part of making the rounds, and
it was all finished before lunch.
While FM is certainly an open, supportive and progressive place to work,
it is still a male-dominated area of the University. But the gender demographic
is one Woods laughs at when asked to discuss it.
When I first came into the maintenance department, everybody was
being very careful with what they said because I was a woman, she
said. But after a while, they got used to it and started treating
me like one of the guys.
Still, as the first woman to be promoted to building mechanic, Woods
said she hopes to serve as a role model to other women hoping to advance
up the FM ladder.
I try to talk and encourage [other women], Woods said. But
I think some of them are a little fearful. They wonder, How do you
do that? or What steps do you have to take? The first
thing they say is, Im not going up on a ladder. I think
some are a little scared to take the plunge.
Its a fear Woods understands completely. When she was working as
a custodian and had the opportunity to move up to tradesworkerjust
like when the building mechanic position opened up last yearshe
passed it by.
I was used to cleaning up. I was not used to changing bulbs or
putting on flush handles. It was all new, and it was scary. When you travel
in areas you dont know, its scary. But sometimes you have
to go out there and believe that you can do it. Thats the main thingbelieving
She eventually took the tradesworker job and in her three years performed
admirably. As her proficiency increased, so did her responsibility, which
eventually led to her promotion.
Hard work and responsibility are hardly foreign concepts to Woods, not
only in her career but in her home life as well. Her 47-year-old husband
Westley (she laughs at the remarkable similarity to Wesley Woods, where
both she and he worked) has battled diabetes since he was a teenager.
A couple of years ago, he went on disability, and Woods had to care for
He was on dialysis for two years and underwent a kidney and pancreas
transplant in February. While Westleys prognosis is excellentonce
his body adjusts to the new organs, he should fully recoverWoods
continues to care for her homebound husband.
With this job and taking care of him, you know Ive got my
hands full, Woods said.
To get though what have been some pretty tough times, Woods, a devout
Baptist, has relied on her faith. Without it, I wouldve thrown
in the towel long ago, she said.
Woods also expressed gratitude to several members of FMs management
team, who gave her the flexibility to spend time with her husband during
his long illness. They were very understanding, compassionate and
supportive, she said, listing her manager, Charles Norris, assistant
director of plant operations, and her current supervisor, Mark Kimbrough,
as just two of the many people who stood by her in her time of need.
For the future, Woods said she wants to go as far as she can go,perhaps
even pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. In the present,
though, she is happy concentrating on the new job, taking care of her
home life and continuing to draw strength from her faith.
Youve got to have belief in yourself to do anything in life, Woods said. Thats how I balance out my life in work and at home, is my belief. Im a true believer that all things are possible with God if you trust him. He will put you right where you want.