Women in Trades

DuPage Habitat for Humanity Conversation on Women in Trades

Women in Trades Panel

DuPage Habitat for Humanity hosted a panel today to celebrate International Women’s Day and highlight women in trades. The conversation focused on the importance of women in trades, how women can pursue a career in these industries, and whether the panelists are seeing an increase of women in these roles.

The five panelists were Keila Beachem, Deborah Erbach, Lisa Guzman, Tina Marquez, and Rhea Rashad. Marquez talked about how she “fell into” the trades industry when she actually brought home a job application for her husband at the time. “That’s where he inspired me to say ‘you know what, why don’t you fill it out?” said Marquez. “The kids are going to start school soon and you can go to work.'”

She was successful and has worked her way up, now becoming the superintendent – transmission at Nicor Gas. She said when she first started 28 years ago, she was only the second woman to come into the field. But she’s now seen an increase of women at the company.

Rashad eventually became a journeyman carpenter after she decided to drop out of school while studying architecture. She saw flyers for a preparedness pre-apprenticeship program. “I ended up in the carpenter’s union, building the things I wanted to design. So that was a cool way of me getting there,” said Rashad. “I’m still finding my way. Right now I’m going back to school for construction management.”

Roadblocks

Guzman, who is a carpenter apprentice, said part of the roadblock for her was just not being aware of what opportunities were available and how to find them. “I spent years being interested in it, but didn’t really know where to look. And I felt like more people were discouraging more than encouraging me to join into the trades,” said Guzman.

It wasn’t until she came across the Chicago Women in Trades and did a pre-apprentice program with them that she got to where she is today. “If I did not have the support of all the other women, I’m not sure I would have pushed forward as quickly and as strongly as I have,” said Guzman. “So it was really great to have a support system.”

Advice for Women

Deborah Erbach, who is a site safety representative and electrician at Gibson Electric, has some advice for women who are looking to do what she’s doing. “Don’t let people tell you no. There’s a lot of things that are going to come up that will be hard, but it’s really rewarding,” said Erbach. “If you want to be involved, if you want to be a part of it and people around you aren’t helping you, then you need to go to the meetings, you need to go volunteer, you need to be where people can see you.”

Beachem, who is a senior district system operator at ComEd, added, “if it’s in your heart, do it. Take the time to really learn your craft, learn the company, learn the people, learn all the opportunities that are available to you. Always have a questioning attitude and stand up for yourself.”

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.

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