NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More and more women are shattering the glass ceiling and making their mark in the male dominated construction industry. “Times are changing. It’s not just a man’s world anymore,” Tanay Matthews, of Brooklyn, told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock. Matthews works construction with Local 361.“I love it, honestly. It’s tough, it’s physically draining, but every day I wake up and I give it my all,” she said. She said she’s typically the only woman on site.“I work with about 30 men now. My last job might have been 200,” she said.
According to the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York City, women make up just four percent of the construction unions workforce. But as Matthews said, times are changing. “Work needs to be done to continue to get the word out to women and young girls that yes, you can do this, this is a career for you,” said Kathleen Culhane, president of Non-Traditional Employment for Women, or NEW. NEW offers a two-month pre-apprenticeship training program for women of New York City, many of them unemployed or underemployed women of color. “It’s booming now. I’m so confident now that I’m going to be great, my family is going to be great,” said Shanique Latimer, who’s finishing up her training at NEW. “My last job I worked at the World Trade Center and I’ve seen all these women – construction women – walking back and forth and they have like this pride on their face, and I wanted that for myself,” Tshura Williams added. Now, she has the tools. Landing a spot in a union apprenticeship just became more likely for these women. Since 2005, 10 percent of union apprenticeships were set aside for NEW graduates. “We’ve just increased that, set aside by 50 percent,” said Culhane. Now, 15 percent of apprenticeships will be set aside, increasing the total number from 150 to about 225. “Really amazing for the women of New York City,” Culhane said.
With each new opportunity, the city is one step closer to making the non-traditional career of construction traditional for women. And why not. “As a female, we can do it!” said Latimer. Union construction jobs offer excellent benefits and a lot of room for career growth. While apprentice wages average about $18 an hour, in a few years, that could skyrocket to as much as $60 an hour.