Our world is ever-changing. Now, more than ever, barriers are being broken and stereotypes are being challenged by those who’ve been marginalized. Women have become a dominant force in the Blue Collar/Trades sector and have excelled in spaces (such as construction, plumbing, welding, and electrical) that until recently were almost exclusively occupied by men. As we get farther into the twenty-first century, tradeswomen continue to break the mold. My blog explores the inspiring stories of blue-collar women and the impact they make.
Blue Collar life is often associated with brute physical strength, gritty working conditions, and the need to maintain a rugged exterior. This ultra-macho perception of trade work makes the industry seem to be an inaccessible, undesirable, and downright hostile place for a woman to work. However, the reality differs greatly from this outdated image of our profession, as evidenced by myself (a welder and custom painter with my own shop) and by the millions of women worldwide making a living with their hands.
Challenges and Triumphs
All this isn’t to say that being a female in a space that is still male-dominated comes without its challenges. Women in blue-collar spaces often face prejudice, stereotypes, and even harassment. This disparity proves there is still a dire need for tradeswomen to create communities, networks, and organizations that offer support, guidance and comradery for both veterans of the industry and those newcomers seeking to make their mark.
In interviewing different women about their personal triumphs of working in the trades, their responses were much the same as you would expect from anyone who works in the trades, despite their sex.
When I asked my mother (who is a retired Union Carpenter in Southern California) what she loved most about her former job, her response was "I liked building things, big things that were useful". I remember clearly when she decided to take the job to work along side her husband. I was very intrigued and in awe of the hard work she put in day after day, and even on nights and weekends building and repairing for friends and family members. When she wasn't building things, she could often be found under the hood of a car, covered in grease, but whether she knew what she was doing or not is anyone's guess.... (JOKES!!)
A friend of mine, Brandi, does body work on car restorations in New Jersey and often guest appearances at several shops here in the Bay Area, including mine. When I asked her what her favorite thing about her job was, she answered, "I think that's pretty easy! I love that it's always something different, never the same job. But I also gotta say, the end result!!" Brandi gives her parents, who owned a motorcycle shop when she was growing up, most of the credit for her choice of profession. She said she also ended up buying a shitty Camaro as her first car, and really liked "taking care of that hot mess", so she decided to attend trade school instead of cashing in on the many scholarships she had been awarded.
Nicole Latronica, owner of Tron Precision Welding in Plainfield, IL has been TIG and MIG welding for 8 years. She was originally going to school for dental hygiene, and was only a couple of credits away from graduating when she decided to take a welding class to fill some extracurricular credit degree requirements. She loved it so much that she went to a performance shop that fabricated car components and was granted her request to be an apprentice. Now, as a business owner, her favorite part "is the joy of seeing a plethora of very peculiar, nifty things in need of repair and the brain twisting challenges involved in getting to the end goal of achieving a quality repair." She is "passionate to be able to create, build, produce and repair as well as the joy brought by changing the solid states of metals and alloys into liquid when welding."
Diverse Career Opportunities
One of the major complaints that those who pursue corporate careers often make is that there is little variation in their day-to-day working lives and also little room for growth either in their current role or in their profession in general. Not so with the trades. Technology constantly invigorates and updates our industry, meaning you’ll always be learning and growing, whether you chose to be an electrician, welder, plumber or painter. Furthermore, corporate environments are often overcrowded and cutthroat in their competitive nature. With trades jobs, you’ll always be in high-demand, because of lack of youth being exposed to shop classes due to the rise of the tech world, and the fact that there will always be a need for experienced trades workers, no matter the economy.
As women continue to enter blue-collar trades, it is essential for employers, trade organizations, and society as a whole to promote inclusivity. This includes creating safe and respectful work environments, offering equal opportunities for training and advancement, and challenging harmful stereotypes. The more inclusive and diverse these industries become, the stronger and more innovative they will be.
Women working in blue-collar trades jobs are not just changing the face of these industries; they are changing perceptions and breaking down stereotypes. Their stories of resilience, determination, and success are an inspiration to all. As we celebrate their achievements, it's crucial to continue supporting and promoting inclusivity in blue-collar trades, ensuring that women have equal opportunities to thrive in these fields. In the end, a more diverse workforce benefits everyone, creating stronger and more vibrant industries for the future. Brigade Jobs is a huge supporter of women in the trades, and is proud of those who have followed their ambition and passion despite the odds stacked against them.