According to Zippia, the career expert company, only 5.3% of today’s electricians in the United States are female. Unfortunately, these low percentages of female workers are common among all careers in the trades. Although increases in the number of women in the trades have taken place, progress has been gradual at best. Attracting women to a traditionally male workforce is one way to help the trade’s professions with skilled labor shortages. Ramah Knox is an example of a female who not only entered the electrical profession, but also excelled in it and serves as an inspiration for other women to enter this rewarding field.
Ramah developed a love for working with her hands at a very young age. She grew up with three older brothers who were constantly taking things apart and putting them back together, and this ended up rubbing off on her. They were a family who loved the challenge of building and fixing things. Their neighbor was an electrician, and when Ramah’s family built a new house, she enjoyed watching her neighbor install the electrical boxes and panels.
Ramah graduated from South O’Brien High School in Paullina, Iowa, in 2006. Her family had moved to Northwest Iowa during her high school years, so even though she graduated from a high school within Northwest Iowa Community College’s service territory, she had actually never heard of NCC before. When Ramah began researching electrical schools, she quickly discovered that NCC was one of the best in the nation. Since NCC’s electrical program was so highly rated, Ramah chose to enroll in the Industrial & Commercial Wiring program.
Although she was the only female in her electrical classes, Ramah enjoyed the program. During her first semester at NCC, she made another big decision — to join the Iowa National Guard. NCC was supportive of this and worked with her, so that she could serve while also completing the electrical program. She had to take one extra semester in order to complete all of the program requirements, but Ramah graduated in December of 2008 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial & Commercial Wiring.
After graduation, Ramah started an internship at Interstates Electric in Sioux Center, Iowa. Due to the economic turndown in 2008, there were not as many electrical jobs available at that time. Interstates did not have a full-time position open following her internship, and many other residential electricians were not hiring. Ramah wanted to make herself as marketable as possible, so she decided to continue her education at the University of Northern Iowa, or UNI, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Public Relations and Marketing.
Ramah had opportunities within the Iowa National Guard where she could use this degree, but she ultimately desired to find a position in the electrical field.
Ramah graduated from UNI in 2013 and once again began her search for a position within the electrical industry. She applied at Crescent Electric, an electrical supply distributor with over 140 locations across the United States. Due to her education at NCC and experience at Interstates, Ramah qualified for an Account Management position. Her hands-on experience and knowledge gained from her education at NCC helped to make her a successful account manager. She knew what questions to ask to ensure customers were getting the right product. During her first few years at Crescent Electric, Ramah also started a family. She had two kids and continued to work full-time. She recalls how challenging it was to find daycare, balance her travel schedule and deal with the extra responsibilities that come along with being a mom, all while working in a male-dominated industry.
Not only was Ramah working full-time and raising a family, she had also been promoted to platoon leader in the Iowa National Guard. She served as the only female platoon leader and was in charge of the Sioux City Platoon. During this time, Ramah was exposed to Military public affairs. One highlight from Ramah’s career during this time was her involvement in the Waterloo Tyson Fresh Meats Facility improvements. Tyson and Crescent Electric employees worked together to come up with a light fixture that could hold up to the strict wash-down codes that Tyson maintains. Ramah was not only on the team in charge of this project, she was also involved in providing a tour and more information about the project to Senator Joni Ernst. In addition, she was able to write about the project to share on the military public affairs side. This project enabled her to see the manufacturing and engineering industries working together, and she was able to combine her position in the electrical industry with that of her military experience.
Ramah was promoted to Business Development Manager at Crescent Electric. This position brought new challenges for her, such as learning more about solar energy. Even though this was a new concept to her, Ramah was able to use the knowledge obtained in her electrical classes at NCC to help her better understand solar concepts. She was involved in constructing one of the largest privately-owned solar arrays in the State of Iowa, Great River Health’s thirty-acre solar array. In her military career, Ramah attended the Defense Information School in Washington DC. She received a special designator of PA on her military branch and got more involved in the Public Affairs Detachment. It was here that Ramah became interested in the Air Force. Ramah switched to a position within the Sioux City Air Guard. She was involved in working on refueler planes and working with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and simulators. She was also responsible for conducting interviews and writing articles about the projects. It was a great experience for Ramah to be able to use her electrical knowledge and also write for the National Guard as a journalist. One of the articles she wrote during this time was regarding fighter jet hooks that attach during landing. Her involvement in this project sparked her interest in the mechanical side of the electrical industry.
In early 2020, Ramah left Crescent Electric to pursue her love of writing. During this time, she wrote many articles for the Iowa National Guard. She traveled to observe the Army’s projects, assisted news stations with interviews and shared news regarding the influential work the Iowa National Guard was doing. The National Guard noticed her work and asked Ramah to serve as the Director of Public Affairs full-time — normally they have a lawyer in this position. Ramah was eager to serve in this role and set the course for the direction of the Iowa National Guard from a public relations standpoint. She completed a variety of interviews and a lot of press conferences with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. One of her proudest moments was witnessing the first Iowa Guard female-to-female battalion commander handover. Ramah knew this position would be temporary, and she wanted to get back into an electrical role. This led her to Emerson Automation Solutions.
Ramah began as a District Sales Manager for Emerson Automation Solutions in February of 2021. As a District Sales Manager, Ramah is responsible for managing relationships with customers and driving specifications in the territories of Iowa and Nebraska. In this position, Ramah works primarily with fluid motion control and pneumatics. These are concepts she would have experienced at NCC if she had taken the Electrical Technology, or ET program. She encourages current Industrial & Commercial Wiring students to take the ET program. Ramah loves her current position at Emerson, and enjoys that every project is vastly different from the one before. On the military side, Ramah currently serves as Commander of the 135th Mobile Public Affairs Attachment. Her goal is to help grow the next group of journalists and continue to bring awareness to what the National Guard is doing.
She credits her education from NCC in getting her where she is today. “The electrical program at NCC trained me to be malleable, to be a problem-solver and to look for ways to make processes better. The program provides its graduates with a well-rounded set of skills that we can take any direction in the electrical industry. Working for a manufacturer such as Emerson requires you to have experience and be a problem-solver. Nothing compares to a real experience that you can bring to the table when solving problems and coming up with solutions. Don’t be afraid to get in the trenches, to work hard and to dream big — the world is waiting for you to get out there and do more,” she stated.
Looking back on her career path thus far, Ramah is grateful to have had so many different experiences within the electrical industry. She has been able to move through the different parts of the supply chain and understand each process and how each role she has had fits into the “big picture”. Surely Ramah will continue to do great things within the electrical industry, to make a difference through her military involvement and serve as an inspiration for other females to enter male-dominated professions.