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  • Writer's pictureTerry Bierwirth

Skills of a Tradeswoman: Strong Personality, Hard Working, Confident

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

I read a wonderful article today and have posted a portion below. It's written by Carol Diggs and is published in an online publication called C-Ville. You can find the full article here.

The skills of a tradeswoman

What does it take to succeed in this industry? The women who’ve done it mention several key qualities:

A strong personality: Whether you’re working on a job site or in the construction office, a tough skin is job requirement number one. Construction crews often become a tight-knit group, like a team, and new members of any gender get tested. Lassere described work sites as “definitely a macho culture­—but once I show them that I can do the work and that I will work hard, then they are fiercely loyal as a crew.” Williams admitted it often took time to win over her male co-workers: “with some of them, it took months.” Even at the management level, says Haney, “there’s this old-boys’ club­—when I first started dealing [as superintendent] with contractors and subcontractors, they’d say, ‘Who are you?’ But with more women coming into construction, that is changing.” Both discrimination and actual sexual harassment can be an issue, but that can be the case in almost any field.

A taste for hard work: No question the work is physically demanding—outdoors rain or shine, winter and summer—and there’s definitely a learning curve. When Maine goes to workshops for young girls, she says “I tell them it’s awesome, and they shouldn’t be discouraged by what other people say. But I also tell them you’re not going to be perfect from the start, these are skills that you have to work to learn.” Jalisa Stinnie, who was working as a Charlottesville City Schools janitor when she saw the poster for UVA FM’s apprenticeship and is now a first-year electrician’s apprentice, says it straight: “You have to be a team player. If you’re lazy, this is not the place for you.”

Confidence: Females who want to learn a construction trade have to believe in themselves, say these successful tradeswomen. Electrician’s apprentice Stinnie says: “There was nothing in my background at all—I could change a light bulb, that’s about it. You need to be self-driven. You have to ask the questions, and not be afraid to ask.” On the flip side, mastering a skill builds self-confidence and self-respect; Haney, who comes “from a construction family” and does her own projects at home, says there’s nothing like “the accomplishment you feel when you build something.”

So what do these women tell girls considering entering a trade? Many of them cite the real-world benefits. Electrician Short, now a licensed journeyman, says, “School was not my forte­—I wanted to get out of high school and start life. My apprenticeship paid for my education, and paid me while I was doing it.” Maine, who had started her own business when a teacher from her CATEC classes called her about apprenticing at UVA FM, says, “I’m the only one of my high school friends that didn’t go to college. And they all say now, ‘You’re so smart,’ because I don’t have any debt.” Williams (who has taken full advantage of UVA’s employee benefits to take courses in engineering and construction management) likes the sense of self-reliance: “I don’t have to fork out the money to get things fixed,” she says, “and I don’t have much of a ‘honey do’ list.”

Lassere, who’s already looking ahead to hiring her first employee (a carpenter’s assistant—female, of course), can’t imagine any other way to go. “I tell [young women] this will be the most rewarding thing they have ever done,” she says. “It’s a skill you’ll always have. And, you know, I can build anything, I can fix anything, and I love it.”

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