Women's History Month 2023 - LeAnne Senger
I’ve worked for the City for a smidge over 30 years - I started in 1992 as a Communications Operator Trainee in Lake Oswego’s 9-1-1 dispatch center, also known as LOCOM. I’d just graduated from college, had student loans to pay, and knew I could answer the phone, so a job at 9-1-1 seemed interesting. Little did I realize how much happens in that little room, far more than just answering the phone. I found out it was fascinating and very fulfilling. Next thing I knew, 30 years had gone by! I’m now the Communications Operations Supervisor, focused on making sure the people doing the job daily have the tools and training they need to succeed. I also spend a fair amount of time still ‘working the floor’, taking 9-1-1 and non-emergency phone calls, dispatching Police and Fire responders via radio and computer, and answering a variety of calls. LOCOM is available to respond to someone’s needs 24/7/365.
I grew up knowing I would work. Coming of age in the late ‘80s, it wasn’t really unusual anymore, although that concept hadn’t been for very long. I wanted the security of being able to provide for myself and my family after watching my mom struggle as a single mom. Both of my grandmothers had also worked outside the home. One worked for an insurance company and moved to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1950s/early 1960s to establish new territory, when a female insurance agent was practically unheard of. My other grandmother raised her family and took secretarial jobs as she could to nurture her mind and her own ambitions. Once she was an empty nester and ‘women’s lib’ was really taking off in the early 1970s, she made waves by leaving her secretarial job at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for a janitorial job for better pay. I admired these strong women and was determined to carry on the paths they had blazed!
Even though the landscape had changed when I entered the working world, I didn’t realize how much further it still had to go. While women could do any job, there was still all too often an unspoken delineation between ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’. It’s been a thrill to see more women enter the ranks of the responders we dispatch – which, for so long, had been stereotypically male jobs. It’s also been gratifying to see so many of those women, and others who were ahead of me, rise to positions of power and demonstrate their intelligence and leadership skills; and to see our male colleagues adjust to those changes so respectfully.
For women entering the workforce now, I’d remind them that so many of these things we take for granted really are fairly recent changes. When I started with Lake Oswego, I worked with the first female Motorcycle Officer in the state, and with the fire department’s first female Battalion Chief. It’s kind of crazy to me to think those firsts happened within only the last several decades. My mother came of age at a time when she couldn’t apply for a credit card on her own without her husband and when most women weren’t comfortable setting their career aspirations too high. Now, the sky is not even the limit! Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t think anything is impossible because of your gender.
Photo: LeAnne exploring Quebec City along with a New England/Canada fall cruise.