Skills. Sisterhood. Stamina. These are the words that come to mind when I think of the tradeswomen I have met and spoken to over the course of my two month summer internship with Legal Momentum. It has been an absolute honor to hear your stories and be entrusted with the job of sharing them through this blog. Before working on this project for Legal Momentum, I knew very little about the construction industry and tradeswomen. Now, I am fascinated not only by the construction industry, but by the amazing women I have met in the building and construction trades.
Skills: Tradeswomen are skilled. They are very good at their respective trades. I was amazed to hear stories about working on John F. Kennedy Airport, Yankee Stadium, huge skyscrapers, and elevators in the Southwest. That is work that I know I could not do, my body would not be able to take it. But, these tradeswomen love it. Joanne Hager said, “I love doing physically demanding work all day.” Marie Lake takes pride in the fact that she helped worked on buildings where she lives--a fact her children also note when riding past them in the car around town. These women love their jobs. Not only are they committed to building America, they are committed to building it well.
Sisterhood: Sisterhood is one reason why tradeswomen are so skilled. They seek out or serve as mentors to pass on their skills, knowledge, and experiences of the on-the-ground work and environment to women coming up in the trades through pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship programs. Janet Dukic believes it is her civic duty to share the stories she hears about tradeswomen because it not only inspires her, but also because she knows other women--daughters, sisters, and future tradeswomen--need to hear them. She said, “There will be a daughter who comes along and will read about us. They need to know that it is our movement and their movement that will keep us here. We are here.” Tradeswomen are skilled, proud, and supportive of each other. Marie Sullivan accepted her current position because working in the trades provided her with a career and she wanted to be able to help someone else better themselves and their life through the trades just like she did.
Stamina: What amazed me the most about all of the various tradeswomen I have met and spoken to is that they have experienced very real, and in some cases extreme, discrimination on their job and as Marie Sullivan would say “stuck with it.” All of the tradeswomen I have engaged with love their jobs even though they have experienced things that no one should have to. The plight of women in the trades inspired LJ Dolin to do something about it. She says that, “Being an activist and advocating for women to be hired in the elevator trade has been my life’s work.” She also encourages other women to continue to be activists and do what’s right. Sarah Coyne said, “It’s not nontraditional work if you’ve been doing it for 20 years.” Women are in the trades. They are proud of what they do and most importantly, they stick it out because they love their work.
To all of the tradeswomen I say thank you for letting me into your world and allowing me the chance to tell your story. I hope I did you justice. I want to thank Legal Momentum for giving me the chance to work on this project as well. It has been an honor.
by Gabrielle Hickmon