Meena pays it forward in the white Champion sneaker

POWER IS
saying “yes”

BY KATIE KELLEHER

Crane operator, bold wig wearer, sneaker collector

Photographed in London by Claudia Leisinger.

I hit a lightbulb moment or a low moment while working in recruitment—it depends how you look at it. My finances had taken a blow, which left me with a lot of anxiety, my mental health wasn’t great and while I kept smiling on the outside, on the inside my whole world felt like it was crumbling away into nothing. I seriously didn’t feel like I had much to go on for.

I managed to pick myself up to try to reinvent my world. I was working on a trades and labour section in recruitment for construction workers and I thought, why couldn’t I do that? Ok, I didn’t have the experience or the knowledge and I had no idea what I could possibly do in the industry, but what if someone would give me a chance?

KATIE KELLEHER
“Women in my world didn’t do this kind of thing but I was so scared of not trying.”

I blanketed out my CV to some of the larger construction companies and one day when I was driving home from work, I got a phone call that changed my life. “How would you like to be a crane operator?” I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer this. In my mind, women barely worked in construction let alone operated cranes. When I was in school, women were not told we could do these kinds of hands-on things. We were not told women could work in construction and even though I worked in recruitment I only had one woman on my books and she was a painter.

Life had presented me with an interesting opportunity.

I decided to go to the interview, I had nothing to lose. I turned up dressed fresh from the office and I was the only woman there—the only woman being interviewed and the only woman I saw throughout the whole process. I really believed I had no chance of getting this job, I just didn’t think that I fit the mould.

A week later I got another phone call, they wanted to offer me the apprenticeship! They assured me it wasn’t just because I was the only woman (I asked because nobody wants to be the token) but they were genuinely impressed in the skills I showed throughout testing.

This left me with a big decision on my hands, I never even told anyone I went to the interview because the initial response when I told them I was considering it was, “Construction is dirty,” “You won’t like it, it’s full of men,” “You will get your nails dirty,” “You don’t understand what it’s like.” Both my father and then-boyfriend worked in construction and while I wanted to listen, I also wanted to prove the world wrong.

I decided to go for it, I decided to try. I mean, why couldn’t I be a crane operator?

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PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT

Claudia Leisinger, London @claudialeisinger

Power is best shared!

Photography gives me the permission to look at my environment, to notice what is going on, to stay curious about what is behind the next bend, be surprised and sometimes be proven wrong. Power in photography for me is that it offers me a way to connect to my environment and everything that is in it.

Claudia Leisinger

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