Natasha Arnold is the only 5’1” female carpenter’s apprentice working on San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center—the biggest transportation terminal on the West Coast.
“The jobsite workforce is 99% male,” says Arnold, adding that she’s used to being one of the only women on the job. She was in the army for six years, where she was an air traffic controller, and later was a forest ranger and archeologist before becoming a carpenter’s apprentice in Oct. 2015 when she landed a job with Anvil Builders, San Francisco. “I really admire HT [Anvil CEO Hien Manh Tran]. We’re both disabled veterans,” says Arnold.
She dislocated a knee during Army training and, years later, her remedial surgery was botched. She gets along with her co-workers. And she gets along with them because she’s a hard worker. “I always wanted to bring the integrity, hard work and higher standards I learned in the military to the civilian world,” says Arnold. “Construction lets me do that.”
The through line for all of the 34-year-old Arnold’s previous jobs is a manifestation of her desire to work with her hands. “I enjoy a mental challenge, but being an air traffic controller taught me that I wanted to do something physically challenging as well. It has to be both, mind and body,” she says. Physical challenge renews the more creative aspects of her life.
“Now that I’m back in this industry where I use my hands and energy all day, I’ve gotten back my creative, artistic passion outside of work,” says Arnold, who uses her ever-improving carpentry skills to create artistic cabinetry in her free time.
She sees beauty in the construction industry as well. “It is amazing to see all the trades working together in a beautiful dance of hard work as if we are performing a ballet around each other, one goes this way, one dips down here, and another tip toes there and before you know it there is a new wall or a floor where there was once nothing but thin air before; its really cool to see and be a part of.”
Natasha adds that it’s important for the construction industry to realize that, “even though women are smaller, there’s a lot we offer, even though we’re not the biggest most muscle-y people on the job.” She says that her father worried about her for taking rough-and-tumble “guy jobs” such as in the Army, police and construction but she says, “I want people to know that you can excel in construction without having to be a big dude.”
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