By Laura Hutt, founder of Women in Steel Toes
Women in Steel Toes was created to tell the stories of women in the construction industry, bring light to challenges women may face on-site, and inspire a younger generation of people to enter the construction industry.
This started when I realized that there was one thing that would’ve made a huge difference in my career — a mentor. I started out framing houses for a small residential construction company when I was 18-years-old.
At the time, I was taking Civil Engineering Technology in school, and was looking to get some hands-on experience. I am, and always will be, a firm believer that you need to get your hands dirty in construction, in order to have an appreciation for what people do. So, I set out to frame houses.
There I was, stepping onto a site with five male employees; they were crude, sexualized me, called me fat, and the list goes on. However, they always said that I was a good worker, so I assumed this is what being “one of the boys” meant.
I took all of those comments and jokes over the entire summer, but in the end, truth be told, I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t take being nervous at work; I couldn’t handle being “one of the guys.”
At the time, I didn’t stand up for myself. I thought this is what my life was going to be like working in construction. I assumed that’s just what it was, and decided I had to toughen up.
Looking back, I know that I could’ve avoided a lot of this if I just used my voice. I could have recognized that this stuff was not okay, and that I needed to stand up for myself. I didn’t want to turn to another man for suggestions because I didn’t want anyone to think that I couldn’t handle it. I truly wish that I would’ve known at least one other woman in the industry at this time. A mentor that I could’ve confided in, and would have let me know that this wasn’t part of being “one of the guys.”
You may also like: Equipment finance solutions during an economic recovery
Thankfully, this experience was a one-off and I have never had to deal with something like that again. Males on site are my allies, and I know the people I work with, including myself and many others, wouldn’t put up with that nonsense.
The creation of Women in Steel Toes (WIST)
This is what motivated the creation of Women in Steel Toes (WIST).
In January 2020, WIST was created with a simple goal, to support women in the industry and inspire the next generation of construction workers.
Since then, this message has echoed and grown into a community of women and men who are striving to grow the industry and show people how great a career in construction can be.
Women in Steel Toes is growing with three main pillars in mind:
- We are storytellers. We are here to share real experiences of women in the industry, good and bad. There’s no exaggeration, no sugar coating, just stories of how women are growing their careers.
- We are here to inspire. There’s nothing cooler than seeing a project go from nothing to a huge something. With a variety of trades and career paths to choose from, construction is a great place to be for anyone who loves a challenge. We want to get people thinking of these career paths at a younger age and let everyone know about the options they have, which they may not have otherwise known existed.
- We are here to support you. Have questions about the industry? Need help finding resources? Want to connect with someone in your field or potential field? Don’t hesitate to contact our team to help set you in the right direction.
Women in Steel Toes is about more than breaking through barriers and sharing stories of women in the industry.
It’s about showing women they can. We started this movement as a way to normalize seeing women in the industry and breaking down stereotypes. We quickly realized how much a need there is for change, and to get people thinking about careers in construction again.
In the future, we’re working towards setting up scholarships for up and coming apprenticeships and tuitions, as well as demonstration classes, to allow high school students to explore what construction is all about.
Let’s strive to break industry barriers, raise the 13 per cent of women in construction and garner an industry that breaths potential and growth for future generations.
If you’re interested in joining Women in Steel Toes, visit womeninsteeltoes.com or check us out @womeninsteeltoes on Instagram.