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Celebrating women in the trades

By Sherry Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Skilled Trades

Friday, June 8th, 2018 @ 6:34am

I work in the trades, which means the women that work with me are in the trades too – my daughter included. And you can bet that I step back and am proud of the women I work with every day. It’s important to me that they get the respect and support they deserve.

It’s always a great moment when your kid decides to follow in your footsteps—even if it’s just for a while. It was a proud day for me when my son Junior told me he wanted to be a contractor—and what he’s accomplished since then has been unbelievable. But it was different when my daughter, Sherry said she wanted to join the crew.

Sherry had been working at the office for years, helping run the business side of things when Hurricane Katrina happened. Next thing you know, the crew and I were heading south to New Orleans. We were going to build a hurricane and flood resistant home for one of the victims, Gloria Guy—I’ll never forget her. She was another firecracker.

This was a huge opportunity for everyone. We knew that this job meant a lot to a lot of people, and Sherry wanted to be part of that. She wanted to help. And the truth is there isn’t a better reason to get into the trades—or do anything, for that matter. What happened next no one could have predicted: She was hooked.

Now, Sherry has stepped out from her dad’s shadow, getting out there and speaking to other trades, working with contractors, managing jobs and making sure they get it done right. She’s proving construction is not a man’s world—at least not anymore. And I’m thankful for it.

I’ve always said women in the trades keep the men honest. Why? Because when women work in the trades, they give it everything they’ve got, every day. They leave nothing. When guys see that it makes them work harder. It’s like teamwork– one person pushes hard, everyone else does too.

Women are still fairly new to the game. Although they’re usually in the top 10-15 percent of their class, they’re among the last 10 percent to get hired. There might be some old ideas that need to come down. But it makes them hungrier to learn; to get better; to be the best; to see how far they can go and take their skill—and they’re giving guys a run for their money!

Anyone who works in the trades is already a hero to me—girls, boys, young, old—because the work isn’t easy, it’s underappreciated, undervalued, and bottom line, it’s tough work that requires even tougher skin. But every time I go to a tradeshow or trade school and I see more and more women there, interested, engaged and dedicated to doing the best at what they do, I’m hopeful about where this industry is headed.

I think it’s healthy to have shop class and Home Economics in schools. We should expose kids to as many different skills as we can—you never what hidden talent they will show you. If they never get that chance, we all lose out.

What if tomorrow’s leaders never learned that they could lead, or supervise, or manage, or develop a project and see it through? I want to see more women get out there and run the show. And not just any show, or someone else’s show, but their show. I want to hear them call the shots–say what they mean with confidence, and mean what they say with heart. That’s what integrity is all about.

My daughter, Sherry brought up a great point: “You can have a powerful opinion but it’s only powerful if you do something about it.” And for her, equality in power is not having to explain herself. If everyone can do what they want to do why should she have to explain herself just because what she is doing isn’t traditional, for her. “I’m just going to do it”—is what she says. And I can’t agree with her more.

Women working in the trades today are doing more than just their job. They are changing the world and the future—not just of other women, but for everyone. And they’re tough as nails. All I have to do is look at the workmanship and dedication of the women I work with and I know that women belong in the trades—they always have.

If you’re a woman thinking of getting into the trades, go for it! If it’s your passion learn as much as you can. Doors that were shut continue to open for women. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It might even be harder for you than it is for others. But I promise you it will be worth it.

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