A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Woman in the Trades Hopes to Inspire Others

Construction Citizen has over the years highlighted the fact that there are fantastic careers for women in the skilled trades.  That's despite the stereotypes out there about men being the only ones welcome on construction sites and in other jobs where people work with their hands.

The fact is that women are some of the best candidates for many jobs in construction because they demonstrate better attention to detail and have more patience than men in plenty of instances.  During a recent panel discussion at Community Family Centers in East Houston, construction executives broke down many of the myths about working as a craft professional.

Educating folks about the realities of working in the skilled trades is an ongoing process.  For further proof, take the story of a young woman from the Pacific Northwest who is working with her father in their family plumbing business.  She hopes to inspire others to work with their hands.

From the story in the Daily Journal of Commerce:

“Teeth gripping a plastic pipe fitting, Smokey Fritz climbed a ladder inside a house under construction.  Fritz joined two lengths of flexible plastic pipe with the fitting, pulled a tool from her back pocket and crimped the pipe.

“’If you don’t crimp a fitting right, it can leak,’ said the 23-year-old apprentice plumber.  ‘Water, out of everything else in the house, is the most damaging.’

“Then she yelled to a co-worker: ‘Washer box is done!’”

The story notes that, given the percentages that are reported nationwide, it is quite possible that Fritz is the only female plumber in the county where she resides:

“Nationwide, about 9,000 women plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters comprise only 1.6 percent of the 564,000 workers in the field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Although an American woman became a certified master plumber in 1951 – 64 years ago – the fields of plumbing and the other trades are still dominated by men.

“The percentage of women in nontraditional construction work is about 2 to 3 percent, said Cynthia Polly Payne, spokeswoman for Washington Women in Trades, based in Seattle.  In some government operations, such as Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the percentage of women in trades is much higher, about 16 percent.”

The Daily Journal of Commerce story also reports that – and this has been our experience in Texas as well – that getting the word out about these careers is one of the biggest challenges:

“’The trade careers are hidden for women,’ said Mary Ann Naylor, spokeswoman for Oregon Tradeswomen.  ‘Young women don’t see adult women doing these careers, whether in pop culture or on job sites.’

“To that end, the Portland-based trade association organizes a Women in Trades Career Fair every spring and invites young women to learn about trade careers.  This year, a record 687 middle school girls, 575 high school girls and 629 adult women attended.

“’Young women are blown away by the (paid) apprenticeship opportunities,’ Naylor said.  ‘It’s a much more important conversation than 10 to 12 years ago because college has become so expensive.’

“In both Washington and Oregon, Naylor has noticed renewed interest in career and technical education.  Her organization offers girls-only construction camps and classes to inspire young women to consider a trade career.

“Naylor noted the high rate of job satisfaction in the trades.

“’You can’t take your work home with you.  There’s pride in being part of a team that made a building or a bridge,’ she said.

“Standing on a ladder and installing plumbing, Smokey Fritz said she would like to see more women willing to work with their hands.

“’I wish more women would try the trades,’ Smokey Fritz said.  ‘I hope women will be inspired to try.’”