Sandra Ramos recently invited me to attend the Women Builds Nations Conference held on April 29 to May 1 at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare Hotel and Conference Center in Rosemont, Ill. Record attendances of more than 1,400 were anticipated. Unfortunately, I could not attend due to other commitments.
Did you know that women in the trades comprise less than 3% of the labor force? Given the shortage of more than 30,000 new hires for jobs in the trades, (jobs that do not require a college degree), you can’t help but wonder if recruiting and hiring more women might just be one solution.
In the 1950s, it was unusual for women to be in the workforce — especially in upper-level positions. My aunt, Mary Stephenson, became the very first female editor of the York Sunday Newspaper. In addition to overseeing a section of the newspaper, she wrote what became a very popular column. A few years later, my mother Jean, (Mary’s sister) opened a cooking specialty retail store called Bright Prospects. Together with her business partner, they hosted a local cable TV show called Cooking with Jean & Jane that developed an almost cult-like following. I cannot remember a time where women were limited in whatever they chose to pursue for careers.
Respect can have its own reward. A few decades ago, we had an opportunity to bid on remodeling more than 150 bathrooms in a large hotel. I met with the hotel manager, a young lady named Kim, to pick up the blueprints and discuss the work. While touring the floors/bathrooms layout, she asked me if I would have any problems if she was the construction manager.
Could I accept having a woman giving me orders? My reply: “I’m married so I’m accustomed to taking orders!” We got the bid and after a few weeks’ time on the jobsite, I was asked to go to the office to discuss something. Kim asked me if I knew why we had been chosen for the plumbing work. The first plumbing contractor continually asked to see “the man in charge.” Kim tried explaining that she was in charge, but he would have no parts of that. The second plumbing contractor, knowing full well she had been the hotel manager for more than a decade (meaning she had an emotional attachment to the building) and was now going to be the construction manager crossed the line. He told her he felt sorry for her and when Kim asked why, he said “For having to work in this shi% hole”.
For the duration of that job, on rare occasions when Kim was in a particularly good mood, we would ask to see “the man in charge."
“Dave, you weren’t the low bid, but you showed me respect and never talked down to me,” Kim said to me. “I just wanted to let you know why I chose your firm over the others.”
For the duration of that job, on rare occasions when Kim was in a particularly good mood, we would ask to see “the man in charge.” Her response cannot be printed here, but we all shared laughter in the good natured ribbing.
My wife is our office manager. We work together every day and when folks ask how we have survived decades of working together, I tell them that’s because when she says frog, I ask how high to jump! Lois has a different perspective and says I simply do what I want no matter what she says. The truth is we respect each others’ opinions and often compromise.
I’ve had the honor of sharing the stage for Mechanical Town Hall forums with some amazing mechanical contractors and educators. One of the most impressive panel members was Alana Ward, who holds a Master Mechanical Contractor’s license, and is owner of Baggett Heating & Cooling, http://www.baggettheatingandcooling.com. In 2012, Contracting Business Magazine named Alana HVACR Woman of the Year.
My immediate boss here at CONTRACTOR is my editor Candace Roulo who ensures my articles are grammatically correct with words spelled correctly. In addition, Candace will edit content I submit on occasion, but always sends it back to me for final approval. It’s been a great working relationship.
Ingrid Mattson, brand director with Uponor North America is a colleague, mentor and very good friend that I first met through the Radiant Professionals Alliance. Mattson was named Woman of the Year by Champions of Business Awards in 2016. Judy Garber, who served as the head of National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM), now the National Association of Oil and Energy Service Professionals (OESP), proved to be exceptionally competent, congenial and astute. Together with Dan Holohan, Garber formed the non-profit Oil Heat Cares to provide families that can not afford to replace worn out non-functional oil-heating systems with new fully functional heating systems at no cost.
Crazy as it may seem in this day and age, some male attitudes in the trades are still mired in the chauvinist dark ages.
Crazy as it may seem in this day and age, some male attitudes in the trades are still mired in the chauvinist dark ages. We are currently working on a very large commercial project and on the pre-bid meeting day, all the various tradesmen were gathered in a group.
As I entered the cavernous space and walked up to the group, I was stunned to hear the comments being made about the construction manager: A woman? — Gasp! One sure fire way to get fired off of a jobsite would be having any of those negative and sexist comments be overheard. Now several months into the project, this young female construction manager has proven herself to be in my personal “Top 10” best construction managers I’ve ever worked with.
All Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor's Website is protected by Copyright 2015. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine. Please contact via e-mail at: [email protected].