‘The possibilities are endless’: SRS highlights first female operators

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 11:25 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s Women’s History Month, and in once male-dominated fields, women are taking over.

The Savannah River Site put the spotlight on some of their first female operators. We caught up with one woman who is a second-generation employee.

Loretta Barnett began her job at SRS as one of the first female operators after working her way up from a cafeteria employee.

“She was a dedicated worker. She never would’ve made it to a senior reactor operator had she not been,” said Pam Salvo, Barnett’s daughter.

Being one of just a few women in a male-dominated field was not always easy.

“The men, told her that we’ve never had women here, and so we’re going to name you Charlie, that’s your nickname,” she said.

Barnett persisted and had a nearly 16-year career at the site while paving the way for other women, including her daughter.

“I went into the service department, but they told us right off the bat, you will only be here a short time because there will be openings in other departments,” said Salvo.

She also worked her way up from being in security patrol to engineering. Over the last four decades, she has watched the shift.

“It is good to see especially a lot of young female engineers. Every department we have out there now, women are in, so it’s been good to see that happen,” she said.

A human resources manager at SRS says more women are becoming interested in these careers.

Janessa Smith said: “We are seeing some growth, particularly with our production operator apprenticeship program we have had some females apply and get hired.”

When it comes to recruitment for these roles, Smith says diversity and representation are essential. Salvo encourages anyone with the desire to work hard and accomplish their goals to apply.

“We’re in 2022, the possibilities are endless,” said Smith.

SRS has an intern and apprenticeship program that is certified through the Department of Labor. It allows students to come to the site and gain hands-on experience in different career paths. For more information, visit SRNS.

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