STEUBENVILLE - April Ogden always knew she'd have to work harder than the guy next to her if she wanted to be accepted in her male-dominated workplace.
So Ogden made it a point to be on time for work and maintain a good work record, find things to do to keep busy when her regular work was done, even going so far as to eschew any reaction to off-color language or jokes.
"You have to act a certain way on the job," advises Ogden, a laborer. "You have to respect yourself or you won't get the respect of the men you work with. You have to conduct yourself in a certain manner."
ON THE RISE — Rayland native April Ogden worked full-time while putting herself through college and raising two young sons on her own, just some of the reasons Hard Hatted Women selected her as one of their 2011 Women on the Rise. Ogden, regional apprenticeship coordinator for Laborers International Union of America Local 809 in Steubenville, was elected recording secretary in 2007, making her the first woman ever to serve on the union’s District Committee. She currently is president of Local 809.
-- Linda Harris
Now in her 20th year with Laborers International Union of America, the divorced, mother of two enjoys the distinction of being the first woman ever to serve on Local 809's executive board. And last year she was elected president of Local 809, making her the first woman in Ohio ever to be elected president of a Laborers local and to serve as delegate to District Council.
"If you'd have told me 20 years ago I'd be in the position I'm in now, I would never have believed it," she said.
A 1985 graduate of Buckeye South High School, Ogden managed to earn her bachelor's degree in human resource management from Wheeling Jesuit University in 2002 while working full-time and raising her two young sons by herself.
"You can (do anything) as long as you're focused and determined," she said. "I tell everybody, and not just women, that you shouldn't let anyone tell you you can't do something, or don't feel like you can't do it, because you can."
She'd joined Local 809 in 1991 and after 13 years as a laborer in the field went into the office to work as secretary/dispatcher/apprenticeship coordinator. Three years later she was elected recording secretary of her Local, earning her a seat on its executive committee, and in 2010 was elected president.
As a laborer, she said, "You always have to work harder than everybody else because you're a woman, so they take you seriously ... I've worked on mills, on power plants and a couple heavy highway jobs. I had to prove myself every single job, all over again. But a lot of the guys I talk to say it's the same for them every time the job changes, you're working with a different crew and you feel like you have to prove yourself. This business in general is stressful."
Now that she's a union officer, she said the key is to "put your members first and do what's best for them, it's not hard. It's when you lose sight of that, that's when it's hard."
"I love people, I like helping people," she said. "I remember what it was like to be a laborer in the field, and if I can help out, I will. The big thing Wheeling Jesuit taught me was to be a person for others. I like to help others as much as I can. It's giving back, I guess."
She recently was recognized as one of Hard Hatted Women's 2011 Women on the Rise, designed to celebrate the accomplishments of women working to inspire others to provide education, leadership and career opportunities to women and girls in fields they may otherwise never have considered, saying she had been an inspiration to others "because she was determined not to let hardships keep her down; she went to college and worked hard to be where she is today."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)