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Breaking Stereotypes: Three Women Shop Managers
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Breaking Stereotypes: Three Women Shop Managers

June 2, 2021
From left to right, Cyndi Johnson, Jessica Armonas, and Nichole Sowa.

Shops have been male-dominated work environments for years. Three women in Northern Illinois are pushing back that stereotype.

Cyndi Johnson in Dekalb (#20186), Jessica Armonas in Maywood (#20182), and Nichole Sowa in Hodgkins (#20183) are all shop managers at their respective locations.

Collectively, they have more than four decades of experience, manage 16 employees and keep hundreds of buses up to code and on the road every day. Leading their teams is something these women love to do.

“Being in a leadership role allows me to lead by example and create the team that I always wanted to be a part of,” said Sowa.

“Growing my team to be the best they can be,” Armonas said. “Keeping my technicians engaged at all times and working as a team is a top priority for this shop.”

While the industry is predominantly male-dominated, these women continue to show why they are the right person for the job.

“I have pushed beyond the boundaries of what would be expected from the stigma of women’s capabilities and risen to the challenges I was presented and beyond,” said Johnson.

“Men and women have been working together collectively for ages,” said Sowa. “When I interact with men who have never worked with a female maintenance shop/fleet manager before, it provides me with an opportunity to make a good impression. I am uniquely different in my own thoughts and actions.”

First Student is proud of its diverse workforce and women in leadership roles. On average in the United States, women make up 47% of the workforce. First Student’s workforce is 56% women.