Drafting Her Path Through a Male-Dominated Industry
by Kate Nation
Growing up hunting and fishing, serving in the Navy and working in the sheet metal trade, Darlene McCann, a member of SMART Local 19, is accustomed to being a minority as a woman, but that hasn’t stopped her—or even slowed her down.
“I’m lucky to have grown up with a dad who liked to teach me to hunt and fish, so I never had to experience a challenge because of gender,” McCann said. “When it came to working in a male-dominated field, I had to work a little harder to prove that I can be just as good as the guys, but it has been to my benefit as it has made me a better worker and sportswoman.”
McCann learned the sheet metal trade in the Navy and has worked in the trade for 25 years as a field foreman, drafting project leader, CAD committee chairman and other positions. She recently achieved her dream of starting her own business, DAM HVAC Services, and becoming a signatory contractor and owner/operator while maintaining her union membership.
When not providing hvac drafting and 3D CAD services to companies across the country, McCann loves spending time outdoors. Her father introduced her to hunting and fishing when she was 8-years-old, and he could gut and skin a deer by age 12. While she enjoys hunting and shooting, her passion is fishing. From filling a stringer of fish five feet long to landing sailfish in Costa Rica to fishing for salmon in Alaska as a guest on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series, McCann has fish tales to span many a campfire. Asked about her greatest fishing accomplishment and she recalls a weekend trip to Pulaski, NY, where she and her husband caught and released more than 200 trout.
In addition to being a guest on the USA’s TV show, McCann has participated in the USA’s SMART New Jersey Sporting Clays Shoot for several years. She joined the USA because it represents the people she works and enjoys the outdoors with.
“It introduces people to opportunities they may have never been able to experience,” she said. “Whether it’s a veteran being sponsored at a shoot, doing a conservation project with other union members or being selected to go on a dream fishing trip, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is about making things possible.”
McCann encourages fellow union members to join the USA to experience all the benefits it provides and says it can be a great chance for women in the trades to “bridge the gender gap” by better connecting with their co-workers who enjoy the outdoor sports.
“At the shoot, I was pleasantly surprised at the help and tips I received from fellow union brothers…it helped create a camaraderie that wasn’t there before,” she said.
When asked what advice she would offer women or young girls who want to get their start in hunting, fishing or the sheet metal trade, McCann responded, “Go for it, and don’t be afraid to try. The only person that can stop you from succeeding in an outdoor sport or job in the trades is yourself. Neither is for everyone, male or female, but you have to work hard and not expect a break as a female.”