BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
From a very young age, Veronica Rose’s interests were different from many other little girls. Having grown up near construction jobsites, where her father helped build power plants, she was intrigued by the industry – one of the very few that paid all workers equally.
“In 1977, when I wanted to pick a career path out of the Air Force, I found out that women were only getting paid 49 cents on the dollar of what men were,” Rose explained. “So I spoke to my father and he suggested I look into organized trade unions because they didn’t allow that type of discrimination.”
So, following his advice, Rose did exactly what her father recommended and was among the first class of women accepted into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, following President Jimmy Carter’s executive order that opened up trade unions for women and minorities.
“I finished the apprenticeship program at the top of my class, graduated as apprentice of the year and worked in the industry in Phoenix, Arizona, for six years,” she said.
After she gained a few years of experience, Rose took her tools and hardhat with her to New York in 1993, where she worked on massive projects like the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the World Financial Center. But despite her success in the field, she could not quite break through that ‘Glass Ceiling’ because of her gender.
“At that time, I had excelled as far as I could as a woman in the industry,” she said. “The company I was working for valued me, but because of my gender, they basically said we can’t make you supervision because the men aren’t ready for women in leadership yet.”
Yearning to break through the barriers her gender presented in the construction industry, Rose decided to go ahead and get her Master’s electrician license so that she could start her own business.
“At that time, there were no women ever in the history of New York City that had obtained that license,” she said. “There were three females in this class and we were the first female electricians to ever receive their Master’s electrician license.”
“But I know for a fact if I had not started my own company, I would not have been able to rise to the top,” she added. “I had gone everywhere I could think of to try and pursue my career, but the world wasn’t ready for me yet. And after my kids were grown up, I decided I had the time and resources needed to start the company.”
In 1993, Rose, along with her husband, opened Aurora Electric and just three years later, she hired her first employees upon signing an agreement with Local Union 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Having always been an advocate for women in the construction field, Rose always welcomed female union workers. She recalls one particular job where all six of her workers were females, and of those six, three were minorities.
“I wound up receiving an award for that job for the workforce I was able to provide,” she said.
Despite owning and operating one of the most successful electrical companies in the Borough, Rose said that her biggest accomplishment was being able to pave the way for the nearly one dozen women she helped guide.
“I would say the thing I am most proud of is all the women that I’ve mentored and brought into the construction industry over the last 35 years,” she said.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718) 337-7400 ext 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.