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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 16, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Give the Trades a Try
Women often say they want a career that makes a difference.
Traditional choices that fulfill this imperative include teaching,
social work, and nursing.
in labor and education, suggests that welding, sheetrocking, bricklaying,
and, yes, even plumbing could fill the bill, as well. And in many
cases pay better — often a lot better.
"What could be more fulfilling than helping New York City rebuild
from the worst tragedy?" McKay asks. Getting New Jersey’s school
buildings back in top shape is fulfilling too. But not enough women
are taking advantage of opportunities in the building trades, she
On Wednesday, October 23, McKay speaks on a panel addressing "Women
in the Trades: Problems and Success Stories" at the New Jersey
Women’s Conference, which begins at 8 a.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton
and is sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. McKay’s talk
occurs on the second day of the two-day event. Cost for the second
day, $100. Call 609-989-7888 or click on the event icon at the New
Jersey Chamber’s site (www.njchamber.com).
McKay studied American Civilization at Douglass College (Class of
1969) and received an advanced degree in the subject from the University
of Pennsylvania. She has spent her career on gender parity policy
issues, and is chair of the New Jersey Advisory Commission on the
Status of Women. She is also a principal in BHMR (609-261-0255), a
firm that does training and consulting on gender equity issues.
"There is tremendous opportunity for high wage, high skill jobs,"
says McKay. Women choosing a career in a building trade can easily
make two to three times the salary she would earn in a "pink collar"
job, she says. Furthermore, the trades offer a career ladder into
management or an entrepreneurial step into a small business.
Nevertheless women are not looking to the trades for a solid career,
McKay says, offering these reasons.
college as the optimum, sometimes only, next move for all high school
students, regardless of interests and aptitudes. Often they neglect
to tell youngsters — and particularly female youngsters —
about opportunities in the trades.
seen as the "ugly stepsister," says McKay, making it difficult
for students to feel good about looking into programs that lead to
do not present the trades as an option, viewing as dead-end, second-class
is out. "Continuing education and a trade are not mutually exclusive,"
And while many trades are physically demanding, most are open to mature
career switchers as well as to recent high school graduates. There
are special programs to bring women into the trades, and McKay urges
individuals in both categories to look into them.
Important building projects in New York City and in New Jersey await.
They will stand long enough to impress children and grandchildren.
Even the normally cynical, smart-mouthed Meadow Soprano sees the possibilities.
In the premiere episode of the hit HBO program, set in New Jersey,
Meadow’s father, mafia don Tony Soprano, took her into an ornate church,
pointed to marble and stone carvings and said something like: "Your
grandfather built this." When the girl squirmed and sighed audibly,
he said, "No, I mean he really built it. With his hands."
Meadow grew silent, looked around at the stained glass, columns, and
statues, and was indeed impressed.
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