(LIBERAL, Kan.) — Even before she suits up in her overalls and laces up in steel toe boots to head out to a drilling rig, Linda Trujillo is breaking new ground as one of the pioneers of America’s gold rush.
The single mother of three says she first heard about the good paying jobs available in the oil fields from her older sister.
Trujillo made the decision to quit her job at a fast food restaurant in New Mexico, and move her family to Kansas — one of the states experiencing an oil boom.
She says she spent the money from her tax refund to earn a license to drive heavy construction equipment. Today, she’s the only woman on a six man drilling crew.
“It’s really stressful to work around a lot of men, and being the only woman. It’s kind of awkward, but I manage. They’ve adjusted to me,” she says.
Trujillo’s bold move was once unheard of, in what has mostly been a man’s world. But that world is beginning to show dramatic change.
According to Rigzone, a group that analyzes data for the oil and gas industry, approximately 48,900 women worked in America’s oil fields in 2004. The latest numbers from 2012 show 78,400 women working in the industry — an increase of 29,500 in just seven years.
Todd Seba, Trujillio’s supervisor, calls her one of his most valuable employees.
“We’re a team, so as long as you’re part of the team, you fit in,” Seba says. “She’s good, she’s good, she’s part of the team and that means a lot.”
For Trujillo, the gamble to start a new career has paid off. She’s now making $14.65 per hour with plenty of overtime pay. She says she has moved her family from a “run down trailer” to a three-bedroom house.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Heather Long, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Ralph Ellis, CNN
Aaron Smith, CNN