Botwc Firsts

Meet Bianca Wilson, Norfolk Naval Shipyard's First African American Female Train Conductor

Meet Bianca Wilson, Norfolk Naval Shipyard's First African American Female Train Conductor

Photo credit: Tony Anderson 

Bianca Wilson's recent promotion to train conductor for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) just made her the first African American woman to assume the role. Her service to the NNSY continues a proud family legacy of employment with the business as her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all retired from the NNSY. Wilson's husband is also currently an employee.

"It is an honor and privilege," News 3 reports Wilson telling Public Affairs Specialist Anna Taylor. "It shows my children that barriers are still being broken down and I’m happy to be part of the change. I’m overwhelmed with joy to have this opportunity. I know a lot of women are afraid of this industry, but once you get out here, it’s really fun and intriguing."

Wilson began her career in the railroad industry over 20 years ago when she decided to return to work after being a stay-at-home mom. As a former conductor at the Norfolk Southern Railway, Wilson was hired as its first female train conductor in 22 years.

Photo credit: Tony Anderson 

"I'm not your average girly-girl, so it sounded like a great opportunity and I wanted to try something new. I had no idea what I wanted to do there though. I was presented with an opportunity to become a conductor and I jumped on it. I knew it wasn't the average career path women take, and I am always up for a challenge."

She then made numerous attempts to work for the NNSY, including attending multiple shipyard career fairs and even waiting in the rain for eight hours at one particular fair, yet still not being seen for an interview. Wilson's persistence finally paid off when she was surprisingly hired on with the NNSY. While she didn't realize that the shipyard had a railroad system, she welcomed the opportunity to make the career transition for more flexible hours and to finally work for the shipyard that had been so instrumental to so many of her family members.

Photo credit: Tony Anderson 

"My kids have seen that motherly side of me, and now they're seeing their mom being the first African American female conductor, and with three girls, it's definitely an honor," Wilson said.

When asked what words of advice she would leave with women, Wilson shared: "I do encourage females to come and try a railroad job, whether it's engineering or conducting. It's a whole new world. It's a great field for women to be in. If you want something, go after it and give it all you have, the only way to fail is to not try."

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