By Melissa Crowe
Victoria Advocate, Texas.
Elissa Rabalais isn’t breaking the glass ceiling. She’s unlocking it.
A year into her position as a locksmith with Pop-A-Lock, Rabalais is among a strong group of women closing the position gap in male-dominated industries.
“You have to prove yourself as a woman in this field,” Rabalais, 26, said. “You have to be good, efficient and quick. You have to present yourself like you know what you’re doing, or you’ll get eaten alive.”
When she moved to Victoria from Louisiana a little more than a year ago, she planned to become a Head Start teacher. Picking locks was never part of the objective.
While she was waiting for her teaching paperwork to process, her dad, who runs a Pop-A-Lock franchise in town, offered her a job.
“I had a knack for it, and I enjoyed it,” Rabalais said. “The more you do it, the better you get at it.”
Every day she learns a new technique or overcomes a new obstacle — interacting with people in stressful situations, handling a barrage of calls and reports, managing priorities and responding to her customers’ needs.
On a good day, she can pop a lock in 30 seconds.
Working in such a male-centric industry has taken its toll.
“If you go and you’re ‘froufrou,’ you’ll get eaten alive,” Rabalais said. “You have to make it for your own.”
Since the 1970s, women have increased their participation in the country’s workforce, according to information from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department recognizes male-dominated occupations, industries were women’s participation is not even registered — concrete masonry and mining — and occupations where women’s participation is less than half a percent — crane operating, diesel engine specialization and roofing.
The occupations with the largest share of women participation include speech-language pathology, preschool and kindergarten teaching and dental hygienics.