Overcoming obstacles and adapting for success

Hawaiian Electric
5 min readMar 8, 2024


by Donica Kaneshiro | March 8, 2024

While working on microwave repeaters on top of Koolau ridge, Jeannette was able to take in a view of the island that few will ever see.

Jeannette Menor has been taking on jobs that defy stereotypes of women’s roles throughout her career. But whether Jeannette was riding in a helicopter, scaling utility poles or climbing into a transformer, she never thought about the boundaries she was breaking down.

“I didn’t distinguish between a non-traditional job and a traditional job,” she said. “I saw it as a job that I wanted to be good at.”

After graduating from Sacred Hearts Academy, Jeannette enrolled at the Electronics Institute of Hawaii, where she was recruited by Xerox as the company sought to increase its ranks of women.

Jeannette finished her two-year certification program at night while fixing copy machines and other small electronic devices as a Xerox technician during the day. It was then that a Hawaiian Electric power plant employee spotted her installing a radio in her sister’s car. The power plant employee told her she should apply at Hawaiian Electric because they were looking for capable people like her.

Jeannette applied to our company and got a job in the mailroom. The company quickly discovered her skill with copy machines and she transitioned to the print shop. She applied for trades and crafts openings on the advice of her shop steward and went to a job sample test as a backup candidate.

“I didn’t have the proper shoes to do the climbing test, so I had to borrow one of the supervisor’s shoes,” Jeannette remembered. “I’m a size six women’s, and his shoe was like a size eight men’s so my feet were flapping around it during the climbing tests.”

Although Jeannette thought she wasn’t even being considered for an opening, when candidates before her dropped out, she was offered the position as a substation helper. She was indentured, and in 1989, she was one of the first women to join the three-year program to become a substation electrician.

“I didn’t expect them to change for me, I felt more like I needed to adapt to the environment that I was in,” she said.

“One time I had to coil up this hand line and my arms are only so big,” Jeannette recalled. She started wrapping the line around her arm as the other men were doing. The foreman yelled at her and threw the line to the ground saying her coils were too short.

“I grabbed the line and started coiling it around the mirror on the truck, so the loop got longer,” she said. “I just have to work differently, being a little tinier than the rest of the guys.”

Although there were challenges that came with being a woman in the program, Jeannette was motivated.

“They kept telling you, you got to pass your apprenticeship program or else there’s no job for you, so my attitude was like, I gotta make this work. Failing for me was not an option,” she said. Of course, she passed and became a journeyman.

“The crews were made up of pretty much all men,” she said. “Some of them might have felt uncomfortable with having a woman present, because you could tell they would hold back swearing until they got used to me being on their trucks. It became fluent after a while.”

Once she figured out how to find safety shoes, gloves and lineman coveralls in her size and had special climbing hooks ordered, Jeannette found being smaller was sometimes an advantage.

“In Substation, we have to climb into the 138 KV transformers. I wasn’t as crunched up as much as the taller people that have to go in with me to do the work. For me, that was fun. That was challenging and exciting,” she said. “Even for wiring, I think I had an advantage because I had smaller hands.”

Sometimes Jeannette’s smaller frame came in handy when she climbed inside tight spaces in the substation transformers.

Jeannette eventually moved on to hold a variety of positions in the company. She worked in the communications shop and Safety before spending time as a resource planner, construction project manager and eventually superintendent, her current position.

She attributes her career path to our company. “There’s so much opportunity at Hawaiian Electric for all employees.”

But she also took steps on her own, heading to college to earn a degree in business management. Although her job has sometimes been dangerous, Jeannette feels grateful for the life experiences it has given her.

Jeannette demonstrated the dangers of live lines.

“We are wherever our lines go, that’s where our job is,” she said. “I rode my first helicopter being an apprentice, and today that’s still my favorite job that I get to do — do inspections and see the progress of our contractors and the progress of our crews. I even got to ride as human external cargo or longlining (riding outside of the helicopter). It’s a blast, I love it.”

Jeannette rode many helicopters over the years to get to our remote assets.

Even after all her time working in the field, sometimes contractors or new hires question her.

“Many people today don’t realize where I came from and what my experiences are and they challenge me,” she said. “They think I only have book knowledge. But I try to explain it to them, don’t pull any wool over my eyes, because I know, I’ve been there.”

“Thirty-six years at this company, I don’t have any regrets.”

Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.



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