Women in Construction Week Celebrated Amazing Industry Women

March 12, 2021

MCAA was proud to have the opportunity to spotlight so many women in our industry this week on our social media channels in celebration of Women in Construction Week. Here’s a recap of just some of the amazing talent that we have in our industry, in case you missed it.

Meet Jenyll Allende F+F Mechanical in North Haven, CT. Jenyll fell into the industry 20 years ago when she was working a dead-end job barely making ends meet. She says that it was a lot tougher back then, the older generation were a lot harder on women in the trade but things have definitely improved a lot over the years. “I’d love to see a pre-maternity leave so you can still work through pregnancy.”

Meet Vanessa Conrad with CCI Mechanical, Inc. in Salt Lake City, UT. Vanessa has just joined the CCI team but has been in the trade for 21 years. Vanessa’s favorite project she’s worked on has been Intel in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The project was chaotic, but the teamwork and camaraderie has been unmatched. Vanessa is continuously complimented on her organization skills and work ethic. “I enjoy the stories shared among others in the field and the challenges that come with the trade.”

Meet Ke’La Daniels with U.S. Engineering and Local 533 in Kansas City. Ke’La enjoys working in the industry’s changing environment, working with her hands and doesn’t mind getting a little dirty. She’s always reaching out to women she knows, encouraging them to join the trade. She encourages others to always pay attention, listen and get information from those who have been in the trade for a long time to learn the “tricks”. She’s a strong believer that most of her knowledge has come from talking to everyone and meeting new people. “The more women we have in the industry, the more normal it will be.”

Meet Ariel Davis with U.S. Engineering and Local 8. Her previous job closed and moved to Mexico, so she need a new career to settle into. She says it has been an all-around amazing experience and feels she has learned a lot. “You can do anything the boys can do.”

Meet Nichole Derbyshire with Peterson Service Company in Medford, NJ. Nicole is half-way through second year in the trades. She started out in childcare, moved to healthcare and then moved to trades – loving that the industry is always growing and can’t be outsourced. “It’s a good feeling to know you can work on equipment and know you can fix things. A feeling of empowerment.”

Meet Amanda Dufrane-Palmer with EMCOR Services Betlem and Local 13 in Rochester, NY.  Amanda has been in the industry for seven years and joined after coming off active duty in the Army. She recommends the industry to other women because it is understaffed by females and is a great opportunity to pave the way for other women to join the industry.  “Customers get excited to see a women because they didn’t know we existed in the industry.”

Meet Shekinah Francis with U.S. Engineering Construction in Rocky Mountain, CO. Shekinah has been in the trades for 3 years so far and loves her job. She says the industry provides the most learning opportunities has a lot of potential to move up. “Just do it. It seems scary but there is more opportunity here than anywhere else.”

Meet Kate Gunther, John W. Danforth Company, Tonawanda, NY. She has been in the industry since 2012,  and went through Helmets to Hard Hats. Starting in the Air Force, Kate knew wanted to get into the trades. She looked at steam fitting and pipefitting, and it turns out they were hiring! “The industry is a great place for the strong willed and those eager to learn and grow.”

Meet Rene Johnson with EMCOR Services/MESA in Energy in Irvine, CA. Rene started out in the office of her dad’s AC company and saw all the people in field making more money and thought “I could do that job.” She says the industry is a lot more accepting now than when she started 31 years ago. Rene love passing the knowledge that she has learned through the years on to the new people in the trade. Her advice to them is to not take any short cuts, start from the bottom and work your way up. Respect isn’t given it’s earned. “Don’t tell me how good you are, show it in your work.”

Meet Payten King with U.S. Engineering Metalworks in Rocky Mountain, CO.  Payten has officially been in the trades for 2 years, but her experience started long before that. Her stepdad owns a welding company and when she was 14 years old, he had a project that required all the family’s help. She says the experience hasn’t always been easy and has taken a lot of adjusting but it it’s a great skill to learn and the industry will always be around! “Once he put the welder in my hand, I decided to make a career out of it.”

Meet Coley Maurer with U.S. with Engineering Construction and Local 192 in Rocky Mountain, CO. Coley has been in the industry for almost 6 years. She joined the industry through the single women’s program, Climb Wyoming. She says her experience has been really great and that she has met a lot of really amazing, all American people just trying to earn an honest living to take care of their families. She describes the industry as a Brotherhood and Sisterhood. “It’s a hard day’s work but you drive by a project you were a part of and feel really proud of what you accomplished.”

Meet Deborah Mullen with Corporate Mechanical of New England and Local 537 in Woburn, MA. Deborah has been with Corporate since 2019 and is a second-generation pipefitter. She enjoys learning from experienced Foreman on new ways to get a job done. Her toughest job challenge was drilling ¾ drop-in anchors on a 12-foot ladder over her head. “ Working in the trades has helped me build confidence.”

Meet Nicole Patchett with UMC, Inc. in Mukilteo, WA. Nicole tried quite a few traditional female jobs and had a hard time acclimating so she looked into nontraditional jobs. She started with residential HVAC and fell in love with the culture of the industry. A friend encouraged her to join the union and it has been a very positive experience. She says it can be really intimidating but is a really positive experience and the camaraderie is very high. “Give it a try! Most women don’t even give themselves the chance to succeed in the commercial trade fields.”

Meet Lindsay Phillips with US Engineering and Local 8 in Kansas City. Lindsay started as a chef before joining the industry five years ago. Starting out she felt she had to prove herself a lot and that there was a balance between being herself and walking the line to the gain trust of her team. She’s the third generation in her family to join the trades and loves the benefits that the trades have to offer. “Stand your ground but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Meet Patty Rizzo with John W. Danforth Company in Tonawanda, NY. Patty joined the industry twenty years ago. She says there are good days and bad days and the industry can be like having 40 brothers and one ex-husband but it is a great opportunity for growth and the freedom to be able to pay your own bills and not be beholden to anyone else. “Very satisfying when you are confident in the job and get the respect you deserve.”

Meet Kerry Sampson with Unique Metal Works and Local 17 in Pawtucket, RI. Kerry joined Unique in 2018. She was looking for steady employment with good pay, benefits, and a retirement option so she could build a comfortable life with her daughter. She said, “Often, I am usually the only woman working in my trade on job sites. Kerry says she constantly pushes herself physically and mentally to prove that she can keep up to the men working beside her.

Meet Ivette Saunders with MJ Daly and Local 676 in Waterbury, CT. Ivette has been with MJ Daly since 2015. She started doing HVAC work when she was in the Air Force. She enjoyed it so much; she pursued it once she on the civilian side. “I am proud to be part of the team.”

Meet Heather Shreve with U.S. Engineering Construction, in Rocky Mountain, CO. As a kid, Heather enjoyed working with her hands and knew she wanted to choose career in the construction trade. Even though her dad was a general contractor, she received a lot of pushback from family but eventually settled on plumbing because of its versatility – loving that it was never the same thing every day. “Construction makes me happy. I love building things.”

Meet Reena Smith with US Engineering Construction and Local 192 in Rocky Mountain, CO. She is 3rd generation in the trade, following her father and grandfather who were plumbers and pipefitters. Reena has been in the industry for more than 20 years and says it has changed a lot. When she started there weren’t accommodations for women, like female restrooms. She had to work harder than the men, and her work was always picked out but now feels she’s treated more equal. “Stick with it. If you fail, take your mess-ups and keep going.”

Meet Janice Snidow with U.S. Engineering Metalworks in Rocky Mountain, CO. Janice has been in industry for 40 years. Growing up she was a hands-on girl and loved helping her dad, who was a plumber. He encouraged her to try a mechanical apprenticeship which she started right out of highs school. Janice says the industry has changed a lot since she joined – it was a lot harder in the years past with women being new to the trade – took a while for the respect for women to grow. “It’s an awesome career. Expect to work hard and don’t expect favoritism. Just do the best you can!”

Meet Amber-Rose Sousa with Arden Engineering Constructors in Pawtucket, RI. Amber has been with Arden for four years but is not new to construction job sites. She has been visiting sites with her Dad, an electrician, since she was four years old. He taught her that being able to work with your hands and know a trade is very important. Working as a project manager, she feels like the captain and team leader – the one who makes a project possible, ensuring things stay on budget and schedule from start to finish. “With every successful project I deliver, I gain more confidence in my abilities.”

Meet Quiema Spencer, Master Pipefitter for Local 533 in Kansas City, MO. Quiema is incredibly involved in the industry, sitting on the Board of Directors for the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, President of the Heartland Women in Trades and was leader in the statewide campaign against Right-To-Work in Missouri. In addition, she has been an annual volunteer instructor in Camp NAWIC, a weeklong summer program to encourage young high-school aged women to consider their options in non-traditional occupations in building trades. Her five-year apprenticeship was an experience much like her trade school experience–very few minority women. She was the first of only two African American women in Pipefitter’s Local 533.  “Don’t shy away from the many challenges ahead of you. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

Meet Serene Thomas with US Engineering and Local 533 in Kansas City. During her career she been an Instructor at the Pipefitter Training Center, sat on the P.F. Finance Board, served as Interim Financial Secretary Treasurer, Delegate for MO chapter of AFL-CIO, Member of Heartland Women in Trade (HWIT) a not-for-profit volunteer organization comprised of women in the KC area that are in Union Building trades. My career in the construction industry has been fun, challenging, fulfilling, and has matured me in ways I never thought possible. But without the help and support of other trades women, family members and other industry advocates that want to see women and minorities work and thrive as Tradespeople, all of the above wouldn’t be possible. It is my hope that I will be that same support and advocate for the next generation of women in construction. “Don’t allow fear to dictate if you take the opportunities. Push past it.”

Meet Angel Whitequills with CCI Mechanical, Inc. in Salt Lake City, UT.  She joined the trades and Local 140 Plumber and Pipe Fitters Union for the lifelong career, hands on experience and traveling opportunities. Angel graduated valedictorian in her class at the apprenticeship program and was runner up for student of the year. She is complimented on thinking outside of the box, being bright and has a great work ethic. “I’m proud to be a part of the construction trade and be able to look back and that that I’ve helped build in the community.”

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