WIC Week 2017 – Sarah Gray
Women in Construction (WIC) Week is upon us once again! This week-long celebration is a yearly acknowledgement of the many contributions of women to the AEC industry, as well as a time to raise awareness of the various opportunities available to women within the industry.
Arden Building Companies is proud to have a diverse group of women working in wide variety of roles, from pipefitting, to sales, to estimating, and accounting.
As part of our WIC Week celebration, we asked members of our team to share their experiences as a woman in construction and offer advice for other women/young girls who are thinking about a career within the industry. We’ll be sharing these stories throughout the week.
Today, Sarah Gray, a fifth-year plumbing apprentice with Arden Engineering and UA Local 51, shares her story.
How and why did you get into the industry?
I was a stay at home mom for 10 years, making myself highly unemployable. I realized I needed to go back to school and didn’t want to invest a significant amount of money in an education that wouldn’t give me enough opportunities to make the expense worthwhile. The trades made sense for me – I don’t like to sit still, I like working with my hands, and there’s a certain level of job security in the necessity of plumbing.
Currently, I’m a 5th year plumbing apprentice. At the start of the work day I gather the tools and materials needed for the task for that day. Some days it’s a pretty straightforward continuation of the work from the day before and other days it’s a new task in a different area of the job, or it could be taking care of various odds and ends. It can be interesting working with the various journeymen and learning the different ways a single task can be approached. I have classes at the hall two nights a week and when possible I try to take advantage of learning additional skills at the hall such as welding.
I started working for Arden last May.
What challenges do you see associated with being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
Generally, I find more chivalry on a job site than out in the rest of the world, which can sometimes make it difficult for the guys to find the line between me being a woman and being a worker. It’s a physical job and while I’m not as strong as most of the men, I want to do as much as I am able.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love learning different ways to do things, new techniques, and about systems I haven’t worked on before. And, of course, when I test the pipe I’ve installed and it doesn’t leak.
Why do you think so few women are attracted to the field? Ideas for how to change that?
It’s intimidating. The men, the work, the tools and equipment, and the idea that it’s not an appropriate career choice for a woman – it can be overwhelming. I think the way to change it is to normalize it and reach out to young women and girls to encourage those who are intrigued by construction.
What advice do you have for women/young girls thinking about a career in construction?
Go for it, but have a thick skin.
To read parts one and two of this series, click here.