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Comcast aims to hire more female service technicians
Women make up 1-2 percent of telecom company’s service technician workforce.
Comcast is seeking to bring more women on board as service technicians. Though the profession is still a male-dominated field, the company believes women bring a fresh perspective and unique skill set to the practice.
The percentage of female service technicians in Comcast’s workforce is small, but growing, said Scott Anderson, Comcast vice president of human resources. The company’s last three hiring classes produced four female technicians, which he said was a sign of progress.
“Right now, the (female) percentage of the workforce is fairly small — about 1 or 2 percent,” Anderson said. “We certainly want to increase the number of female technicians that we have, but we don’t have a goal.”
Michelle Gilbert, Comcast vice president of public relations, agreed even the small percentage was significant, compared to just a few years ago when most women wouldn’t consider the job.
“Our goal is to ask the question, ‘Why don’t you think about this?’” she said. “This may be one of the last industries to kind of step up.”
Now a Comcast service technician for almost seven years, Tasha Ellis-Davis originally was referred to the job via the Grand Rapids Urban League. Prior to that, she’d done “anything and everything but technology,” she said.
“My interview was interesting,” Ellis-Davis said. “There were 12 of us. I was the only one interviewing as a technician. It was very intimidating.”
But even with no prior technical experience, Ellis-Davis came into her new job well equipped. After going through Comcast’s 13-week training school, she came into the field well versed in the technical aspects of the job.
Gilbert said the training course alternates between classroom and in-field, apprentice-style training. Ellis-Davis might take on anywhere from 20 to 30 installation jobs per week, which usually involve climbing a 25-foot ladder to run lines.
“What you run into a lot of times is (workers are) afraid of heights, even when it comes to men,” Ellis-Davis said. You have to be about 25 feet in the air. That is the only thing that knocks them out.”
Customer service also is a critical part of being a service tech, and Ellis-Davis’ diverse employment background, which includes working with special needs children at a nonprofit program and a cleaning service, has helped her develop her customer service skills.
Ellis-Davis’ story still is rare among Comcast’s technical workforce. But Anderson said the “soft skill sets” women tend to bring to the fold, like communication and troubleshooting skills, are becoming increasingly more important as Comcast’s products become more sophisticated.
“I think some of those benefits we get are communication skills are top notch — a very thoughtful approach to customer service,” he said.
Gilbert was quick to explain Comcast doesn’t believe male techs can’t be good communicators or that they’re only suitable for the heavy lifting portion of the job, but she hopes this new initiative on Comcast’s part will help women find the right career without fully relying on a college degree.
“We’re not in any way suggesting men are not (skilled), but I think women by nature tend to have an inherently higher level of patience,” she said. “When you’re talking about troubleshooting, patience is important; the soft skill set has become increasingly more important to this job.”
As Comcast seeks to fill nearly 70 technician jobs in Michigan (both male and female), Anderson said the company is tapping into different networks to obtain more female talent. While the provider’s traditional hiring methods haven’t changed much, it is now focusing more on the military pool — seeking out prior female service members who had a technical occupation — as well as encouraging existing female employees to recommend their friends and family members.
Ellis-Davis said she frequently encourages her family to take the same path she did, pointing to the strong support her supervisors give her.
“I’m a mother of four boys,” Ellis-Davis said. “I run into some problems that the men don’t, and my (supervisors) have always been understanding,” Ellis-Davis said. “That’s one of the reasons I try to pull people constantly.”