This One’s for the Gals

This One’s for the Gals

I grew up in a small town in Texas where pretty much everyone knew your name. My graduating class had 62 people and I had this idea in my head that if I wanted to be successful, I had to move to a big city like Houston. Looking back, I now know that is so far from the truth but, like most girls in small towns, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I left home with no plan and no idea what was out there for me, but I decided that I was just going to figure it out. I ended up getting married young, having kids (twin boys) and then getting divorced. I was a single mom with no post-secondary education, no training, a very feeble resume and these two little boys, under a year old, that I had to provide for. It took me stepping way out of my comfort zone to realize that moving out of a small town wasn’t the key to success; opportunity and awareness were.

I’m sure my story is like many other women who have found themselves in careers they never dreamed they would be in. And, while my story is a good one, I’m going to save it for another time. I will say that over the last few years I’ve learned that if you tell a girl what’s out there for her, she’s going to go out and get it!

Our family moved to South Texas in January 2020. My husband had taken a new job with ExxonMobil as an electrical first line supervisor for their Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Project. Anytime I get the opportunity to speak to students I love to talk about him because he is such a great example of how successful you can be by learning a skilled trade and working hard.

This One’s for the Gals

After high school, he went straight into the workforce and grew up in industry as an industrial electrician learning his craft and learning it well. He held positions of increasing responsibility in the 15 years he spent with ChevronPhillips. He was hired by ExxonMobil in a leadership position on one of their largest projects in the world. The thing that gets me is that when he went to hire his electricians, he had a lot of trouble finding qualified technicians in the area. I just remember thinking; ExxonMobil didn’t build this facility overnight. We knew for about five years that they were coming and that there were going to be so many jobs available for the people in the surrounding communities. What have we been doing to help our kids learn about these jobs?

The more I kept asking that question, the more I kept finding, not a lot. We hadn’t been talking to boys – much less girls – about any of these career opportunities. That was pretty much the spark that ignited a long overdue conversation between industry partners and their local school districts, aka their future workforce. Where I went to school, 20 minutes down the road, there were large manufacturing companies, but they never came to talk to me. They never came and told me who they are, what they make and what career pathways they have available. All these years later, that disconnect between industry and their school districts was still there and I was determined to help bridge that gap!

At that time, I was working for Steel Dynamics, and I approached my manager with an idea to help get a group of girls from our local high school to the POWER Women in Industry Conference that’s been held in Galveston, Texas, every year since 2015. I had attended this same conference in 2017 and I remembered that there were school buses outside. They had bused in local high school girls to attend this conference and learn about all different kinds of career paths. He thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to go and visit the school and get their thoughts.

Our initial idea was that we would take 10 to12 girls with a chaperone, load them in our company van and drive them to Galveston for the day to attend the conference. After talking with Sinton High School, they were immediately on board and said that they would even provide bus transportation and take their girls the night before and stay in a hotel.

That positive response from this one school was all I needed to know how great this need was. I decided that I was going to get as many schools to this conference as I could. What started out as me thinking I could get 10 to 12 girls to this conference turned into over 200 girls. It was amazing to see our local industry partners working together with their local school districts to help girls learn about high-paying career opportunities that were right outside their back door.

Most of the schools traveled the day before and stayed at the Moody Gardens Hotel. They took their girls out to a nice dinner and had them dress up. It was a great overall experience for these young women.

The evening before the conference I was down in the hotel lobby talking with some of the chaperones and one said something that I will never forget. She said that I may not have realized it, but the majority of their girls probably had never stayed in a hotel room before, with most not ever having traveled outside of their hometown.

This One’s for the Gals

I like to say that that’s the night This One’s for the Gals (TOFTG) was truly born because it was no longer about a conference or a field trip; it was about awareness and opportunity. It’s about getting our girls to want more out of life and to stop being okay with just getting by. It’s about them being in places like Galveston, Texas, and saying to themselves how they would love to come back and bring their family and stay in hotels and travel. It’s about them asking themselves what kind of career they can have that will afford them these kinds of opportunities.

That is when I decided to start a nonprofit that focused on helping girls with career exploration and workforce development, specifically in grades K through 12, with a focus on construction, energy and manufacturing, that would help them think outside of the box and reach for the stars when it comes to their career.

For our high school initiative, we host conferences where girls in grades nine through12 can come together to learn about careers they didn’t consider previously, didn’t know existed or didn’t think were for them. They get to walk through a career expo and learn about different companies and what career paths are available. They also get to walk through an education expo and meet with different educational institutions that have the training, certificates or degrees to help them enter the workforce.

It was important for me to bring everyone together from craft training centers to junior colleges to universities. We all have the same goal of getting our girls into the workforce and we need to work together, so that they know every opportunity that’s available to them. Whether they want, or need, to go to work right after high school or if they want to pursue a two or a four-year degree. Whatever that looks like for them, we want them to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision when it comes to their career.

For our middle/junior high school initiative, we host workshops where we introduce girls to power tools and paintbrushes or what it’s like to be an electrician. And, for our littlest future women in industry in elementary school, we started a line of children’s books that highlights women in a variety of different roles. We feel that it’s never too early to light a spark and help girls start seeing themselves in these roles.

On our website, we have a page called Women in Industry (WII) Gals. Here you will find stories of women from all different backgrounds. We wanted girls to have a place to go to read real stories of real women that have made their way into careers that they never thought they would be in, so that through them the next generation of female leaders can find inspiration to step out of their comfort zone and step into a world of endless possibilities in industry. Most importantly, we want girls to know that they can do hard things, and This One’s for the Gals is here to show them how!

Photos courtesy of Stephanie Hajducek.



Author profile
Sales Manager - SAMSON Controls

Stephanie Hajducek is a territory sales manager for SAMSON Controls – a market leader in control valves for industrial processes. She has also held positions with other industry leading companies such as Bechtel, ChevronPhillips, Citgo, Steel Dynamics and The Chemours Company.

In January 2022, Hajducek started a nonprofit organization called This One’s for the Gals that helps girls in grades K through 12 with career exploration and workforce development.  Focusing their efforts on the construction, energy and manufacturing industries, TOFTG likes to say that they talk to girls about career pathways that not very many people talk to girls about, from skilled trades to STEM and everything in between.

After almost 20 years out of high school, and with the support of her husband and three children, Hajducek earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology from The University of Southern Mississippi while working full time. She hopes that by sharing her experiences and lessons learned she can help girls step out of their comfort zone and step into a world of endless possibilities in industry!

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