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BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: Celebrating International Women’s Day in male dominated industries

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 11:00 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR 6) -- Sparked by 15,000 women marching for labor rights and suffrage in 1908, International Women’s Day is now celebrated every March 8th.

It commemorates the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women.

From firefighting to craft brewing, the Twin Ports area is filled with women making their way in industries often dominated by men and blazing trails for future generations.

“I came onto the department 20 years ago and it was a different world back then, there was still a lot of sexism,” said Suzi Olson, a Captain of the Superior Fire Department.

Olson said it’s amazing to see how her industry has changed.

She said newer women on the crew like Charlee Edwards don’t have to deal with those obstacles as much.

“I don’t ever feel like someone’s looking down on me or someone doesn’t want me to succeed,” Edwards said.

Both Edwards and Olson followed in their fathers’ footsteps, who each served on the SFD.

They said the support from men helps break glass ceilings.

“My dad, when I joined the fire academy, all he said was ‘be safe, baby doll,’” Olson said.

“Thank you, for the strong men that have stepped up and believed in the women and not judged them but seen them as an equal,” Edwards said.

Across the bridge in Duluth, one of the breweries is also breaking barriers.

“It is incredibly rare in a male-dominated industry like craft brewing that we are 50 percent female-owned,” said Karen Tonnis, one of the co-owners and founders of Bent Paddle Brewing Company.

In honor of International Women’s Day, Bent Paddle created the Art of Change Brew.

They commissioned the work of three female artists: Terresa Moses, Natalie Salminen Rude, and Mana Bear Bolton to create art to go on the crowlers.

The proceeds are benefitting the Black Liberation Lab, Grace Place, and PAVSA, all chosen by the artists.

The beer is available throughout March for Women’s History Month.

“We’re just incredibly proud to support women in our community doing amazing things,” Tonnis said.

Whether brewing beer or fighting fires, these women said they hope to inspire the next generation.

“Cheers to strong women,” Tonnis said. “May we be them, may we raise them, may we know them.”

According to the Brewers Association, 41 percent of breweries have at least one woman owner.

Only three percent are entirely woman-owned.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, only 8 percent of firefighters are female.

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