«In the United States we celebrate March as Women Month but March 8th is honored as International Women’s Day throughout the world. This special ...»
I made it through Trade school and went to work. It was a commercial job with a great boss. My confidence grew and I loved the feeling of building things.
When that job was completed they moved me to another worksite with a different boss. The new boss was 6'3 and had a bright red beard. He told me to take a 12' ladder and set it up in the middle of the room so that I could take pipping off the ceiling. I dragged the ladder over and did a gymnastic move to get it set up and started to climb. I had never been on a ladder that tall and the sweat was dripping off me. I was gripping the ladder so tight with my legs for balance that I actually left marks. After about 15 minutes he called me down and said “ great job...wondered if you could do that or not” He challenged me and I had to challenge myself. I wasn't going to let fear get the better of me and failure was not an option. Thought out my apprenticeship there have been many challenges like that. Bending 1”pipe is not easy even for the guys but I can manage to do it.
My technique is a little unorthodox and looks funny but I can get the job done. Remember that there are many ways to do things you just have to think outside the box.
While I am speaking of challenges I'll talk a little about ladies and bathrooms.
The job I was talking about earlier with Red Beard was in CBS. (Conception Bay South) When I asked to where the washroom was he told me downstairs to the left. When I went down there here is a toilet set up in the middle of the room whit 10 men working around it. As I made my way back up the stairs there was Red Beard on his way down laughing....he said I guess you are going over to Sobey's (grocery store). Be prepared to use porta potties, drive to a toilet and sometimes pee in the woods. This is where the good sense of humour comes in.
After completing my hours and finishing my 2st block I was back on the job market and the market was bleak. I called every electrical company in the phone book and kept records of who I had called and what they said. I kept running into brick walls. I had to take a job in a retail store. The good thing, I was working in the electrical dept. but the pay was 9.25 an hour. And I really didn't want to be there.
Then one evening I noticed a man with a jacket that said “Joe Smith Electric” I had called “Joe many times. I walked up to him and asked if he was Joe and he said he was. I introduced myself and told him I had called him many times for job. He asked if I like where I was working and I told him that I didn't and wanted to work as an electrician and needed more hours. He told me to come in on Tuesday morning 9am. I was there with bells on. He lectured me for about an hour about what it meant to be and electrician and I figured I wasn't get the job just the lecture....but by the end he offered me and job and asked me when I could start.
Sometimes you have to go out on a limb if you really want something. Put yourself out there and show you want the job.
After several months it was back to school and then a layoff. It just felt like everything was such a struggle.
Throughout all of this I had been working with the OAWA and they were a wonderful support. I attended meetings and we as women talked a lot about what our struggles where. We were a small but mighty group and each time I walked way I knew that I could do this. I met other women that had there IP. I was going to get my ticket and no one was going to stop me. I think I got very stubborn about it.
Next I had a lead on a residential job. Figured I would give it a try as I didn't have any residential experience.
The company was Ted Chaulk's Electric. Ted had never hired a woman before and I think he was a little surprised that I wanted to work for him. I wouldn't take no for an answer. This is when the wage subsidy had just started and I contacted Cindy and got all the info. I went back to Ted and told him how it all worked. We make a deal. I would work for him for 1 month and if he wasn't pleased with my work we would part ways. I loved working for Ted and he was always amazed by what my work ethic. At first he didn't know what I was capable of. He sent me to a job on my own to put a few lights. One of them was in a stairwell about 15 feet up. I set up a ladder and was putting the light up when he walked in to check on me. He told me to come down off the ladder...he was very concerned...I asked what was wrong...he said. You don't have to put that light up there...aren't you afraid??
Afraid of what? I asked what was I supposed to do and he said he would send one of the guys over to put it up, it was too high for me. I told him not to be so foolish no one was going to be doing my work. He stayed and had a chat while I put the light up. A few weeks later we had to install and underground service. It was Oct and it rained all day. Ted stayed with us that day because it was such a big job. I spent the full day in a ditch cold and wet, my fingers were like prunes.
The next day was pay day and Ted told me that he gave me a $1 raise because I worked so hard. I was on top of the world. To have my boss recognize my hard work. When I left Ted I asked him to do me a favour...hire another women. And he did. He is so happy with her work he wouldn't have it any other way.
Then it was time to write my IP. How exciting. This is what I was working towards. I wrote my exam on Friday and left the country on Saturday. I waited in Portugal for the results of the exam. I felt pretty good when I wrote it and told Dad if I didn't pass I got a 69% hahaha...
Received the results and sure enough...69% fail. What a kick in the pants. I was so disappointed. The whole experience was so humbling. When we got home I locked myself in the house and studied my heart out for 20 days. And wrote again....the sweat was pouring off of me. I received the results later that day and I had passed 72%. I felt taller and prouder then I ever had in my life...I did it. Then I called my family and it was the ugly cry. They were all so happy for me. It was a very big day! Jan 19 th to be exact.
Since then I have worked at the Long term care facility in St. John’s. When I showed up on that job there were 8 other women. I couldn't believe it. It was the 1st time I worked with a female apprentices and journey women I worked in LHPP as an electrician and was promoted to Craft Safety Ambassador. Once again because of my work ethic and outgoing personality they chose me out of hundreds of other workers Now I am completing my Construction Safety Officer and expect to be back in Long Harbour in the new year.
There are a few things that I would like to instill in you today:
If you decide you want to work in the trades be ready to work hard. You will be rewarded.
Trust yourself and know that you can do the job as well if not better than the men.
Stay professional...when you are on a worksite you don't just represent yourself but all women in the trades.
Make sure you have a good support system. You will need them when the going gets tough.
Last but not least I would like to thank the OAWA. (Office to Advance Women Apprentices) Without them I would have given up long ago. They were my backbone when I thought I couldn't do it anymore.
Thanks! Yes We Can!
Mind, Body and Spirit…Becoming One With Our Work by Stella Cheng, Mason, Rodes France There is a belief in the guild, that a person embodies their trade...or rather, that the raw materials that one uses, influence their personality. While the determination s/he must apply to their material to "tame" it, molds their own spirit, the materials shape the craftsperson's body by its resistance or its workability. A worker's musculature and callouses will tell you which tools they wield all day.
Someone who works soft limestones is more likely to be pleasant and agreeable; whereas, a carver that works ferociously hard granites tends to be the stubbornest bastard on earth. In the guild centers, the tradesmen live together, whether they be baker, carpenter or metal worker. Just looking how their bodies are formed, you can tell which trade they do. The set of their jaws, the meanness or softness in their eye give you the clues you need. And then, when you have a drink with a few of them, the things they say and how it is said also indicate the material they might work.
The pastry chefs are sooooo funny...almost frivolous with their icings and delicious colors.
The bakers are pale and soft like the dough they knead...and are game for any foolish thing you might suggest. The cabinet workers bend and curve, changing directions like the laminated strips with which they create their works. The carpenters are easy to get along with: they understand grain and fiber and which way to work their wood, and apply the same principles to the people around them.
Metalworkers may seem cold at first...but once you warm them up and pound on them a bit, they become malleable and fluid, showing an incomparable resilience. Ironworkers, blacksmiths and coppersmiths may all work metal, but they are as different as lion tamers are from poodle trainers. Their temperament reflects the qualities of their metal of choice.
Editor Note: This issue was so much fun to put together. Working with these International sisters expanded my belief that tradeswomen around the world go through the same kinds of issues…the good and the bad and the in-between. The more we know about each other the less alone we feel. The more we reach out to each other the stronger we become. Yes it can be done…*Si Se Puede is more than a saying. It is the absolute TRUTH.
I’ll be spending March 8th this year, in Vancouver BC Canada with three incredible tradeswomen authors. All sharing what we know with an audience of people who want to learn why and how women are working in careers that used to be the exclusive habitat of males.
I’m proud to represent my US sisters; proud to be accepted as a peer by my Canadian sisters; and proud to be looking ahead to the April 25-27 Women Building California and the Nation conference in Sacramento CA. The circle of sisterhood comes home! See you there! www.sbctc.org Sue Doro Si Se Puede: Motto of the United Farm Workers
HEY….TRADESWOMEN CONFERENCE ATTENDEES …COME TO THE BLUE JEAN POCKET WRITERS WORKSHOP!Write what’s in your hearts and you’ll be truthful.
Write what thoughts go on under your hard hats and you’ll be courageous.
Write what driving force creates your muscles and you’ll have the strength to continue.
Write. And do it with your sisters at the Blue Jean Pocket Writers Workshop!
Facilitated by Sue Doro, Retired Railroad Machinist and Editor Pride and a Paycheck, Oakland CA Co-facilitated by Joanna Perry-Kujala, Published Poet and Journey Electrician, Concord CA www.tradeswomen.org www.prideandapaycheck.com
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TO COMMUNICATE WITH TRADESWOMEN AROUND THE WORLD.The Editor is a retired Railroad Machinist, author and member of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 (UAW Affiliate) as well as the United Association of Labor Education, Local 189 (Affiliate of CWA), & Working Class Studies Assoc., and www.railroadworkersunited.org, Tradeswomen, Inc. and NAWIC (National Assoc. of Women in Construction), the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), retired member of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and International Association of Machinists (IAM). Pride and a Paycheck is produced by the Editor who is responsible for content.
Thanks to the ongoing support of Northern California Carpenters Training Program. Special thanks to Madeline Mixer, Larry Robbin, Joycelyn Robbinson-Hughes, Ironworker Jeanne Park, Electrician Joanna Perry-Kujala, Melina Harris and Sisters in the Building Trades, Women in Trucking and its President Ellen Voie, Sheet Metal worker Rita Magner, Operating Engineer Pat Williams and Vivian Price of Southern CA Tradeswomen Archives, Sister Rails women, the WATT Electricians of Houston Texas and their President Pat Burnham, Indiana Steel Mill Worker Donna De Graaf-Smith, author and Carpenter Kate Braid in Vancouver BC, Mason Stella Cheng in France, Fi Shewring and the Australian Tradies from Supporting and Linking Tradeswsomen as well as all the other international tradeswomen writers and poets like Stella Cheng in France and Canadian Kate Braid who share their work lives with us and in turn inspire other sisters to write from their hearts and hard hats!
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