In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the heroic and historic accomplishments of women in all areas of accomplishment. In plumbing, we look to Lillian Baumbach, the first female master plumber in the United States. Women, like Lillian, paved the way for modern female plumbers and other tradeswomen. The best form of honor is respect. There is no better way to respect tradeswomen than acting like a true ally.
What is an ally? An ally is an individual, contractor, manufacturer and/or retailer who stands with and for tradeswomen.
Women constitute a mere 1.5% of the construction trades industry workforce. With numbers so low, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated in your work environment. Below, find some tips to being an ally.
- Mentors – Providing sage advice to apprentices and young people in the skilled trades helps them feel welcomed in their work environment. This extends to facilitating networking and social events.
- Does not assume – When in doubt, ask. Also, do not assume stereotypes about women or women who work in the skilled construction trades. Having low expectations of tradeswomen is another gaffe. Do not assume tradeswomen possess less experience or cannot complete the same tasks as a tradesman.
- Isn’t shy – An ally calls people out and does not tolerate inappropriate and demeaning humor or remarks. Additionally, get involved with women’s committees. Both men and women can support women in the trades. An ally can also get involved with policy. Share information about the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, sexual harassment training, and pregnancy discrimination.
- Doesn’t mansplain – This should go without saying.
- Encourages all voices – Keep an open mind. As a leader, create environments where all voices can be heard and appreciated.
It’s not simple, but it’s worth it. Allies, like tradeswomen, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. An ally is a powerful tool for recruitment and retention of tradeswomen. Rest assured, tradeswomen will still be here with or without allies. But, they help to improve the workplace for all.
Guest Blogger – Allie Perez founded Texas Women in Trades in 2013, an organization working to bring more women, minorities, and young people to the trades. She also serves as the VP of Marketing and Operations at George Plumbing Co. in San Antonio and on the National Taskforce for Tradeswomen as the Communications Committee Co-Chair. A graduate of New York University, Allie has contributed to trade periodicals for more than seven years. To contact her directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.