IMI’s Maria Gonzalez is taking advantage of the Material Handling industry’s phenomenal growth, breaking down gender stereotypes to build a great career.
When it comes to construction, transportation and warehousing careers, women aren’t easy to find. In Canada, only 2.5% of females in the workforce are employed in transportation and warehousing, compared to 7.4% of males. At IMI, we employ thousands of people in the material handling sector, and yes, most of them are male. But then I heard about Maria Maldonado Gonzalez.
Gonzalez used to work for IMI as a recruiter, spending long days at her desk on the phone with current and prospective employees, deftly managing the people and paperwork required to satisfy clients and keep our company humming along. Then one day a photo appeared on IMI’s LinkedIn feed. It was Gonzalez. She was smiling underneath clear safety glasses and a shiny pink hardhat. Our recruiter had traded-in her phone for a toolbox.
I was curious about why a successful recruiter chose to jump feet-first into a position as a mechanical conveyor installer, and what it was like working in a male-dominated environment. Eager for answers, I decided to reach out to Gonzalez. This is what she had to say:
Britt: When did you start working with IMI?
Gonzalez: I started working with IMI about a year and a half ago. My husband has been working for IMI for four years and I love working, plus I enjoy the construction/mechanical field.
Britt: Material Handling is a male-dominated field. Does that ever pose a problem for you at work?
Gonzalez: It’s definitely a man’s world, but part of what gets me ready for work is the challenge of breaking down barriers and showing the men that a woman can do this job just as well as they can!
Britt: What advice would you give to other women looking for work in this industry?
Gonzalez: It’s not easy. But the advice I’d offer to any woman whom wishes to join our team is this: Come on! Take the ultimate challenge and become a warrior!
Britt: Your job requires a lot of physical labor. Where do you get your motivation and energy from? Who inspires you?
Gonzalez: My job is very demanding. I have to be honest, it’s very strenuous physically, mentally and emotionally. I get my motivation and my inspiration from a very special person in my life, my daughter Leilani Keli’i. Even though she’s three years old, I can look into her eyes and let her know that her mom is breaking down barriers in a male-dominated workforce. I want to be able to show her that I can wake-up every morning and work 12-to-14-hour days, seven days a week and still be a great mom and wife.
Britt: What would you like to achieve in your new job?
Gonzalez: My ultimate goal is to become my supervisor’s first female lead. I want to prove that I can have my own crew of guys to lead and accomplish the goals and tasks set out for us.
Britt: How supportive are your colleagues and Supervisors?
Gonzalez: My whole team is super supportive of me. At first, it was difficult, but soon I gained their trust and respect by showing them that I can hold my own and use my tools. At the end of the day, I am just like them and over time we have become family.
Lastly, my supervisor, Ron “Wooly” Dalton, is my rock. He is supportive and treats me like one of the guys — no mercy! Wooly has taught me that no matter what, I can do whatever I put my mind to. Whether it’s going up in the scissor lift, driving a forklift, or using power tools and equipment. Anything is possible and my gender is of no consequence in my career as a professional mechanical conveyer installer with IMI.
*This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.