There are fewer than two dozen female riggers at NNS, including Jazzmine Dukes and Serena Cook. Note: this photo was taken before the reinstatement of NNS’ mask mandate.

Making Their Own Way

Published October 5, 2021

Serena Cook (X36) and Jazzmine Dukes (X36) are among the small group of female riggers at Newport News Shipbuilding. The two women have found success in the trade, which traditionally has been dominated by men.

“I encourage women to try it. You might fall in love with it,” Cook said. “I love it because you get to really be creative in rigging, especially on the boat.”

Although it was appreciated, Cook said one of the most difficult parts of the job in the beginning was dealing with some male co-workers who offered help when it wasn’t necessary.

“I wanted to stand on my own. At the end of the day, this is what I signed up for. I knew what I was getting into when I came to the shipyard. When I come to work, I want to be able to do what the job requires of me. If the guys are out there doing it, I should be able to do it as well,” Cook said. “It’s a lot easier for me now because everyone who works with me knows I can hold my own.”

X36 Foreman Hassan Suluki said engagement, inclusion and diversity are important in the workplace and make the environment better for everyone. “It is vital to create a more inclusive work environment where everyone feels respected. This is how you get the ‘Hard Stuff Done Right,’” he said.

Cook, an Army veteran who worked as a contractor at other shipyards before coming to NNS about four years ago, said she is never made to feel out of place or isolated within her crew. And while strenuous tasks are part of the job, she said there are materials and ergonomic processes in place to protect shipbuilders’ safety.

Her advice to other women: “Don’t doubt yourself. With everything you do, give it your all. As a female rigger, I want to leave a stamp on this trade and be an example to other women that they too are capable of being successful in this field.”