Women “Breaking Boundaries” lead panel discussion at COD


Vandy Manyeh

L-R (Nicole Everett; Kina McAfee; and Aneesa Muthana

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

Aneesa Muthana is no stranger to the “school of hard knocks.”

“I make things,” she says of herself.

But working with her family-owned company at the age of 23 came with many surprises.

At one point, one of her brothers, who filled a senior-level position, became sick. Muthana filled in, but soon found a male intern at the company resented whatever she asked him to do.  

“He was just on the job for one week, and he had a problem with the owner’s daughter,” she says.

To her surprise, her father, who owned the business, supported the intern over her. While her satisfaction came from working with her family, the following week, Muthana left the business.

“I moved on and established a business with my uncle under the condition he become a silent partner,” said Muthana.

Today, she owns Pioneer Service Inc., an Addison-based company that makes parts for engineering firms, including NASA.

Women in the Chicagoland area like Muthana who are breaking boundaries led a recent panel at COD to provide information about technology and trade jobs that are available to other women in Illinois.

Joined by Kina McAfee, a carpenter for over 30 years; and Nicole Everett, Mortensen’s only female labor foreman in Chicago, the panelists came to  College of DuPage on Sept. 29 to share their stories.

For Everett, it was a day to reminisce her four years spent pouring concrete at COD. She even believes the MAC building is one of the coolest buildings she has ever worked on.

For her, success in this male-dominant field comes from giving her best.

“The money is good; the labor pension is probably one of the best out there,” said Everett.

But success also comes with many challenges, according to the panelists.

McAfee, for her part, referred to “institutional discrimination” as a hindrance for many women who want to work in the trades. This discrimination could be visible from the hiring process to the attitude of men on the job site.

“Most times, the people who own the company and hire aren’t women,” said McAfee. “Women have to be at a 110-percent all of the time.”

For organizers, this event was a matter of priority and a way of responding to one of the growing trends within the Chicagoland area–the need for more skilled women in the trades.

In DuPage County, the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015 put the average median income for married parents at  $122,000. Single dads made $67,000. Single moms made less than half that total – $32,500.

This gap can be bridged when women do non-traditional jobs that are readily available, according to workNet DuPage.

The event ended with a tour of the college’s Technical Educational Center, a building that hosts the campus’ manufacturing technology, automotive service technology and welding programs.