How to Utilise Procore for Your Health & Safety Reporting
How to Protect Yourself Against Unlicensed Tradies
Building a Better Tracking Tool for Product Safety
Australia and New Zealand Construction Forecast 2019
Parramatta Powerhouse Opens Door for Applications
Call for Stronger Oversight and Enforcement of Building Products
Solid Start to Construction Pipeline 2019
The Latest Buzz Around Electric Vehicles in Construction
By Laura Moretz
December 11, 2017
For both of them, it started with a flier.
Jacqueline Townsend was in an unemployment office in the fall of 2004 after she had lost a job as a telemarketer. She saw a Chicago Women in Trades flier announcing an orientation session, and although she had never imagined working in a trade, she had nothing to lose.
It turned out that the event announced on the flier had taken place two days before, but when she called about it, she was invited to attend another information session. After that, Townsend completed the 12-week Technical Opportunities Program and applied for a bricklayer’s apprenticeship program. She didn’t get in the first time, but she wasn’t giving up.
Six months later, she was accepted as a pre-apprentice. Then she was an apprentice for three-years, making 50% of a journeyman’s pay. Now, as a masonry instructor at Paul Simon Job Corps in Chicago, she earns $45.38 an hour, and her total benefits package is $77.30 an hour.
“I never thought that I would make the money that I make at all. I never did.” Instead of living from paycheck to paycheck, she owns a home, cars, takes vacations, and can even help her family out.
Most of her career has been with Iwanski Masonry in Chicago, where she had a positive relationship with the owner.
“In the field, I did have situations where I dealt with racism, I dealt with sexism, I dealt with homophobia, all of the above. I had a situation where I was sexually harassed by my foreman, and it got dealt with very quickly. When the issue came up with the foreman at the time, I happened to have a good relationship with the owner of the company, so I spoke up,” she says. “He spoke with the foreman and I got a verbal apology in front of everyone, so everyone knew what he said, and what he did, and, a week later, he was fired from the company.”
Townsend says that working in masonry has a lot of benefits besides the pay. “It gave me some sense of pride about myself and what I do. I can drive past buildings that I’ve worked on and a specific area where I made my mark on the building. It’s something that will be here when I’m gone. Just to be able to do the work and work with my male counterparts, it made me feel really, really good about myself.”
She’s grateful to the men who were sometimes hard on her when they worked side by side. She recalls asking one guy, “ ‘Why are you such a jerk?’ He finally said, it’s because I know you can do it.”
She wants to pass that sense of accomplishment on to others by training them. She first taught safety, and now she teaches bricklaying full time. She enjoys seeing others succeed when they build something. And just her being there, as the trainer, encourages women, she says. “Women still get a small piece of the pie. and we have to prove ourselves every single day, over and over again, that we have the right to do the work that we do. It’s challenging not just physically, but emotionally, to always feel like you’ve got to work harder just to show that you do belong on the job next to them.”
Liliane Calderone also learned about Chicago Women in Trades’ Technical Opportunities Program from a flier. She went with a friend to pass out fliers for the WIC program, but instead she passed out the Technical Opportunities Program fliers. As a result, she went to the orientation.
“I thought it was great,” she says. “I’ve always been really good with working with my hands and tools and things like that, but I never considered the opportunity to actually work with my hands as a career. It opened a big door for me, and it changed my mind on a lot of things.”
Like Townsend, Calderone fell in love with bricklaying, traveling through the stages of pre-apprentice, apprentice, and journeyman. A few months ago, she was promoted to foreman at J. & E. Duff Masonry Contractors. Her employer is always looking to hire more women, she says. While men on the job might give her a hard time, it is usually “I’m just joking” kind of humor, she says. She has never taken action and gone to her employer about it. She tends to shrug it off.
She is proud of the buildings that she has helped create. In particular, she is proud of her contribution to Chicago’s Elmhurst Hospital, a two-year project with a lot of brickwork.
She is excited about her new position as a forewoman. “I think it’s a great opportunity, and I’ve been wanting this opportunity, so I finally got it, and I hope to do well.”
As an extension of her work, Calderone sits on the executive council for the International Union of Bricklayers. “That was a whole new world coming from out in the field,” she says. She is pleased that three women were appointed to the executive council in 2015. “You’re seeing a lot of progress even if it’s baby steps. Keep marching forward, that’s all.”
If you liked this article, here are a few more you may enjoy:
New NAWIC Executive Vice President Hopes to Grow Membership, Spread the Word about Women in Construction
How to Hire Talented Workers Even During a Labor Shortage
The Foundation of a Woman-owned Business
Women in Construction
established women in construction
2017 Women in Construction Standouts
The AEC industry relies on drawings for everything, from the external site plan and interior layout to the punch list and RFIs. According to Home Improvement Pages, a custom-designed residential ho... Read More
Construction work as we well know is a team effort, requiring the synchronization of workers, equipment and materials. And just as construction wo... Read More
Listen in to this free webinar with Carey Larsen, Social Marketing Manager at Procore, Bob Gardner, CEO of Gardner Builders, and Jessica Stoe, Bran... Read More
At a rural Ohio job site, Wieland Construction and its subcontractors are managing progress entirely from mobile devices — an investment they say h... Read More
The majority of project leaders and teams on site today still utilize outdated, manual tools and processes—even though there are plenty of technolo... Read More
Keeping workers safe on road construction sites is an ongoing problem, underlined by the fact that the number of fatalities at these sites increase... Read More
Automation has improved by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and the technology is proving viable as more companies start to incorporate some ... Read More