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Stories by Hydro

Meet Bre Brittain – What are they doing that I can’t do?

“I was a little nervous coming into extrusion. And to be one of the first women. And not just one of the first women – one with only one hand,” says Bre Brittain. “Do people look up to me? Maybe.”

Bre is one resilient woman. A workplace injury in a previous job led to the loss of her left hand, below the wrist. She left the job, then caught on as a janitor at Hydro’s aluminium extrusion plant in Elkhart, Indiana, where she later applied for and won a position in operations as a press operator.

The plant started production in 1977. Bre is just the second woman press operator the site has had.

Why do you enjoy the job you are doing?

I started in cleaning. The job was a janitor position, but I was not challenged. I graduated at the top of my class in high school, won several awards, and now I was like, I've got to do something different. I want to feel challenged. I want to feel like my job makes a bigger impact and a bigger difference.

I like my job for a lot of reasons. I like the people I work with. I like the environment. I like the health benefits. I have young kids and my oldest, he's hearing impaired. And his hearing aids are super expensive. Good quality health insurance is pretty impressive to me.

It's a very stable job. And I need that. I need stability. I don't want to worry that I'm going to come to work and find out we're going to get laid off or shut down for months and months. 

Why are there no other women working on the press lines?

I don't know. I don't know if it's a mental thing, where women just don't go into extrusion because it’s more of a man's world back there. Or whether they are intimidated by it. It’s hard work, but the work itself is not that hard.

I was a little nervous coming into extrusion. Not just as the only woman – one with only one hand. So, in the beginning, I felt like I had to prove myself a little bit. Go in and do the jobs that no one likes. No one likes going into the pit and getting dirty. I thought it was important to take that initiative, come to work every day, show up on time, work hard. Just simple things. But it matters.

This stuff doesn’t really come naturally to me. It took me a little while. I moved through the departments, utility work, went to the saw and learned the saw, and from there … I did like three rotations at the press, and that's when they offered the press operator position to me. That was pretty incredible.

What is fun about the job?

The people. The guys I work with on both shifts, they are all amazing. You walk by and see these guys, these guys have been here for 15-20 years, and, yes, it was a little intimidating at first. But these guys are the sweetest guys I've ever met. I came in and they were like, well, maybe you can do it this way, you know? And they're trying to use their body as if they had only one hand. They are so inclusive. That feeling that you don't know until you are in there with them. We joke, we are serious, we laugh, we problem solve, we talk about everything. And it's like I was talking to a girl, right? No different.

Are you a mentor to others in the company?

Do people look up to me? Maybe. I've always wanted to have a challenge, like here, where we have only men in this job. I can do this job. What are they doing that I can't do?

Maybe there are people that look up to me, I don't know. I’m not a mentor, but I want to make a huge impact. I want to challenge the male dominated industry. I want to see more females cross that line. I want them to know that it's going to be okay. Don't hold yourself back. Don’t not do something. The company is incredible. My job is a good job. I love it. I love my guys, but I would also love to see more females in extrusion with me. And I would not be here if it wasn't a safe workplace. That is huge for me.

What’s next for you?

I'm a press operator. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but it’s not going to be as press operator. I'm just going to keep moving forward and striving, breaking this glass ceiling that we feel is keeping us down. I'm just going to keep going. And I don’t know where I'm going to end up.

Hydro is aiming to have at least 25% women employees, including permanent and temporary employees, by the end of 2025. The share of women employees in the company at the end of 2022 was 22%. Listen to the stories from a select group of our women employees from across the world!

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