> FOCUS BY SUSAN BLOOM
While current statistics reveal only 9. 5 percent of National
Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) members are
women-owned businesses, this number has tripled in the past
15–20 years and reflects a trend seen in physically demanding, tech-centric fields everywhere. Following, the heads of
three women-owned electrical contracting firms share their
thoughts and experiences on coming up through the industry, the challenges and opportunities they face, and why they
couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Meeting the ECs
Mashell Carissimi’s entry into the field started as a bit of a dare,
but quickly turned into a passion. It began with a marriage to
an EC whose company struggled during the 2008 recession.
“I made an offhand comment to my husband that I could
run a company better than his boss, to which he replied that, if
I took and passed the electrical contractor’s exam and started
my own company, he would gladly come work for me,” she said.
Carissimi took him up on his suggestion. In June 2010, she
launched JMC Electrical Contractor, a full-service EC firm
based in Saint Clair Shores, Mich., specializing in commercial,
“We not only provide
power and power distribu-
tion, but also low-voltage
services, including data,
and security,” Carissimi said.
For Alison Smith, taking the reins as president
of Union Electric Contracting Co., a Fort Washington, Pa.-based
firm incorporated in 1926 and purchased by her grandfather
in the late 1960s, was a proud and unexpected development.
“I left college after one semester and began working somewhere else but then quit. So my mom had me come to the firm
to help out for a month while I figured out what I wanted to
do,” Smith said.
She has remained with Union Electric since that defining
moment 23 years ago.
“I started out as a secretary,” she said. “Typing letters,
answering phones, filing, etc.”
However, following in her mother’s footsteps—her mom
Beverly started at the company in 1980 and rose through the
ranks to become president in 1995—Smith was appointed sec-
retary/treasurer in 1998. In 2002, she became executive vice
president. In January 2017, she officially took over as president
while Beverly became CEO.
Mary Lerdahl, president, DBE Electric Inc., Auburn, Wash.,
grew up on a farm in Oregon before beginning her professional
Mashell Carissimi, CEO of
JMC Electrical Contractor
WITH A MIX OF JOB SMARTS, BUSINESS
savvy, grit and grace, an increasing number of
women-owned contracting firms are helping to
level the playing field in a traditionally male-dominated industry.