Installing smoke detectors is just a small part of Alicia Dickerson’s job with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. She’s part of the utility’s Home Energy Improvement Program.

"I go into the homes and offer them ways to save on their electric and their water bill and add safety provisions if needed," Dickerson said.

She assesses each home and often helps install everything from carbon monoxide detectors to weather stripping for windows and doors to keep out water and other unwanted elements.

"Everything that we provide is free, so they get lightbulbs. They get smoke detectors. They get insulation, if they qualify. We have a refrigerator exchange program," she said.

Prior to getting hired at LADWP, Dickerson says she worked in construction but she was looking for a career path. Someone she knew was part of a LADWP training program and recommended it to her.

"It took two years for me to get the opportunity. I even took a pay cut because I knew that it was worth my while coming here and having a career, not a job," Dickerson said.

Women hold less than 22% of jobs at LADWP, but the utility says it is pushing hard to change that, especially in the field.

“[We have] everything from heavy-duty truck operator and, by the way, we have a woman who does that here. To women who are leading our new power business division at LADWP,” said Cynthia McClain-Hill, President of the LADWP Board of Commissioners, the only all-female board of commissioners in the city of Los Angeles.

"We were even all female before the [LA County] board of supervisors became an all-female board," McClain-Hill said. "It’s important that women see themselves in a profession that frankly has largely been dominated by men, historically."

She says women at LADWP have long been in administrative or customers service jobs, but many of the field positions can pay $70,000-$150,000 a year.

"We’ve got 343 different job classifications at DWP, if you can believe it, and women only occupy about half of those," McClain-Hill said.

Dickerson also points to good pay, benefits and solid union representation. She says she gets along well with her male colleagues and is proud to be on the Women’s Council.

“I want to show the new women that come in that I have leadership skills. I would like to mentor, so you kind of want to show them how to go about doing things, not to be complacent,” Dickerson said.

It’s all an effort to bring a different perspective and fresh energy to the department.

LADWP is holding its first Women's Career and Wellness Expo on May 6.

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