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Part 1: Questions and answers for women
1) What was the reason for entering the trade you are in?
There are various reasons to why I got into this field perceived to be more of a man's job. Entrepreneurship was my dream career since childhood and I went through school determined to realize my dream. My marriage has not interfered with my career. In fact, my family has been very supportive. When I decided to join this field, I wanted to prove that women to can defy the odds and succeed in this male-dominated area. In addition, this career is perceived to be well rewarding.
2.) Describe anything in your background that led you to seek a job in trade.
My background was a major influencing factor. My parents always encouraged me to study hard in school. They also offered me financial support without raising an eye brow. I was interested in attending career workshops for women that were instrumental in shaping my career path since I learnt skills that helped me to start and run a business of my own successfully.
3.) How did you hear about the apprenticeship program or nontraditional jobs for women? (For example, women's advocacy group, subway ads, media from friends, family, presentations at community meetings)
I heard about the apprentice program through a career workshop that had been held in my hometown. The workshop meeting was presided over by prominent heroines who had fought many odds so as to be persons of importance in their careers. The workshop was very informative and the audience was in agreement that women ought to stand and fight for equality. I made a decision right then that I would pursue my line of work till when I would be recognized as a role model.
4.) Did you encounter any barriers when trying to get into the trades? Describe.
Yes. I encountered a lot of problems especially at school and in other places as well. For instance, fellow students made fun of me saying that I was a man in a lady's body when they realized that I was determined to become an entrepreneur rather than getting a white collar job. Some people also tried to convince me to choose other careers that are perceived to be the domain for ladies. In addition, in the university, we were only two in the entire class. The much needed support among ladies was hard to find and as a consequence, I almost switched careers in my third year.
5.) Did you know anyone in the trades that helped you decide to go into that trade?
My uncle, who is also my mentor and role-model, is an entrepreneur. He has always been very supportive. Further, I wanted to join a career that was challenging but very rewarding. A look at my uncle's work made me realize how exciting entrepreneurship is. In my construction business, I am my own boss and I am not under pressure from anyone other than my own deadlines. That observation, as observed in my uncle, was the most attractive feature self-employment.
6.) Is construction work "men's work?" Why / why not?
No. Construction work is a sector that should not be treated as a domain for men. I believe that I am sufficient proof that women too can succeed in this sector. In addition, there are some sectors such as consultancy, architecture and surveying in which I have known women to prosper in. There is a misconception that construction necessarily means the manual tasks reserved for men. However, one does not have to do the manual labor but can employ others to do it for you.
7.) How are you perceived as women in a non-traditional job? Is there an image of "women in the trades?" Please Describe.
Some clients are gender-biased and see women as incapable of constructing their premises. However, those clients who I have had the opportunity of working with have been very instrumental in spreading my good image. Therefore, the few women in the industry have been regarded as the best especially when a client needs a personal touch to the job.
8.) Have there been any men (or women) who particularly helped you during your training or on the job- without them you would have left or perhaps wouldn't be where you are today? Please describe.
Yes, there are people who have supported and encouraged me in my job as well as during my career training. My parents were not only financially supportive in my early days but also emotionally. Without their encouragement, I would not be what I am today. My uncle was also of great assistance. In fact he lent me part of my starting capital. I cannot fail to profoundly thank my partner who has been of profound help and encouragement through thick and thin. These are the people who have made me scale these heights.
9.) What has been the most difficult part of your apprenticeship/job that you didn't expect?
The most difficult time in my career life was after I took a business expansion loan and then six months later, the global financial crisis set in. Business was at a halt and the bank was at my neck demanding that I repay the loan interest on time. Luckily, we were able to get a personal loan from friends which went a long way in our survival. I have never felt as desperate as then.
10.) What has been the best part of your apprenticeship/job that you didn't expect?
My best moment came after we successfully bid for a tender which entailed construction of the office of the mayor premises. This came at a time when we were just emerging from the effects of the financial hitch. I have never been happier.
11.) Do you perceive that women of color experience treatment that is different from other women trade? Please explain.
Being non-white has not been a major hindrance to what I am today. Although I am an African American, I have heard similar treatment to that given to whites saves for a few instances in the workplace. Few clients fail to choose our company over others because of this. However, a few years back, a board member of a potential client company was bent on undermining our skills just due to this. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to work for them which proved that we are just as good as any other company.
12.) Do you notice that different types/kinds of work is given or allocated to tradeswomen of different race-ethnicities?
I have not observed this frequently in my career. However, some states prefer to hire companies that are led by a local resident of that area who his or her family has lived in that area for more than two or three generations which implies that such tenders go to the whites. These tenders are mainly state works and only entail a small section of the tenders floated in the industry. Therefore, this has not been a major limitation.
13.) What advice can you give to other women thinking about entering the trades?
I would like to encourage all such women who feel that this line should not be reserved as a man's filed. Nevertheless, I would like to caution them that if they are to succeed, they need to be ready to face the multiple challenges in the sector. When push comes to shove, they should stand for what they believe in and not bullied just because they are women.
14.) Often, people say women don't go into trades because it is too hard physically. Describe how you've adapted to the physical aspects of the job.
This job has normally been regarding as physically and emotionally draining. However, the rewards are equally attractive. I have managed to overcome any such hindrances by having a well planned schedule. In addition, I have put in place an elaborate management system that is flexible. My employees can easily make simple decisions and as such I do not have to be involved in every minute detail.
15.) Why do you think there aren't more women in the trades? What needs to change to get more women into the trades?
The reason as to why there are a few women is because of the culture and beliefs instilled by the society. Most women fear being regarded as career women. Further, entrepreneurship is regarded as too draining for a woman. However, these are misconceptions that women need to overcome. To change this perception women have to be educated and informed that they can perform just as well as men. I believe that all that women need is encouragement. This can only be offered though organizing women empowerment forums and workshops.
16.) Do you consider your trade to be good career choice for women- why/why not?
Yes. Women have equal intellectual capabilities with men. A woman can perform just as good as a man can or even better. Determination is the key to success.
17.) Do you see yourself continuing in the trades as your career? Why or why not? If you had other options for work would it include another trade job or an entirely different career? Did you ever feel like quitting? Will you continue to work in the trades as a career?
I have chosen construction as my life-long career and I have no reason or regrets whatsoever that would lead me into shifting into any other field. I have already made the decision to advance my business in line with the construction industry for better for worse. I do not believe that any other line would bring so much joy into my life as this has.
Questions and Answers for Men.
1.) How and why did you enter into the trades (pressure from your family, through a family contact, your choice, your interest, etc.)?
Construction has always been a family business. I grew up around construction sites which my father used to take me to. I came to like the sector naturally.
2.) What do you think women bring to the trades?
Women have brought a new perspective into the trade. Not only is there stiffer competition but also an increasing need to outmaneuver such competition. Women are known to excel in works that require a personal touch but so can we. We need to prove that men can take on such orders if we are to outshine such companies.
3.) Did you go through a specific training program (for example, second chance, vocational school, etc.)?
Yes. I attended university where I graduated with as degree in civil engineering. However, most of my training came from self-learning in my father's company.
4.) Do you feel comfortable working with women in the trades? WHY / Why not?
I do not prefer working with women as partners since they can easily distract one from the core business. However, I appreciate having women in my senior management since women view issues differently and work out details and specifics easily.
5.) Is construction work "men's work?" Why / why not?
Construction work can be carried out by everyone irrespective of the gender. Women are equally capable as men. People need to discard beliefs and ideologies that discourage women from the sector. However, a woman who is interested in this career should be prepared for any difficulties since the sector is very challenging.
6.) What has been the best part of your apprenticeship/job that you didn't expect?
The best part of my job is when I received the annual award for the tradesman of the year. This came as a surprise since there were other persons from bigger firms who had been nominated.
7.) Why do you think there aren't more women in the trades? What needs to change to get more women into the trades?
The reason to why we have a few women in the field is the misconception that women cannot perform well in entrepreneurship. So as to reverse this trend, there is a dire need to encourage women in joining these careers. For instance, we should start encouraging our daughters into joining the trade rather than sons only.
8.) Do you notice that different types/kinds of work is given or allocated to tradeswomen of different race-ethnicities?
Racism also plays a part in the allocation of jobs to women in the trade career industry. White ladies are believed to perform better in trade management but this is not true because any woman can do it perfectly irrespective of her race.
9.) Did you know anyone in the trades that helped you decide to go into that trade?
Yes. This company is in essence an extension of my dad's company which we regard as the parent company. He introduced and nurtured me into this career by offering me financial support and encouragement.
10.) As a gender bias begins to break down how would you describe the feelings toward women workers especially during low employment times, like now?
Although women cannot perform well in manual jobs, there are a vast number of opportunities that are available for them. They can work as store managers, surveyors, field workers and in consultancy. Women should be ready to work in jobs traditionally regarded as a domain for men.
11.) Has the credibility of the business changed with women entering the trades?
The entrance of women in the field has brought healthy competition which has in turn expanded the range of products in offer. I think many customers and clients appreciate work done by women especially in the construction of homes and other personalized works.
12.) Describe anything in your background that led you to seek a job in the trades (for example, did you always have an interest in fixing things, working outdoors, etc.)
I was always amazed by the machines that I used to see at the work sites. I had an incredible urge to organize people and machine so as to create something that would be appreciated. This was my major decision point.
13.) What advice can you give to other women thinking about entering the trades?
Women should take the challenge and have confidence in themselves. They also need not to be discouraged by ideologies that certain jobs are reserved for men. Instead, they should take these ideologies as traditional and the time for change is now. With such low employment levels and a not so good economy, its time women broke down all barriers if they are to survive.