What a Girl Can Do: Female Glaziers Make their Mark in the Industry

By Stephanie Staub

When it comes to workforce discussions, one recurring theme is the need for more skilled trades workers. It wasn’t that long ago these trades workers were all associated with the word “men,” as in tradesmen and journeymen. We’ve come a long way in shifting the ideology that careers in the trades are best left to men, and many women today have
successful careers in the trades. Challenges still exist, however.

Changes We’ve Seen

The gender divide in construction is narrowing, thanks in part to bringing more awareness of these careers to girls as young as middle school. Regional chapters of organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) hold summer camps for teens, sometimes even tweens, exploring various construction careers. Volunteers from all facets of the industry pitch in, enabling the program to offer hands-on activities, jobsite tours, and life lesson “real-talk” from women in the industry.

Room for Improvement

Despite the progress, jobsite improvements are needed. Bathrooms, are one example. General contractors need to ensure female employees have designated facilities, including potable water for washing hands. Female employees often either leave a jobsite to utilize a public restroom, or else will not use any facility, which can lead to serious health consequences. For example, not drinking enough water to avoid jobsite bathrooms can lead to issues such as heat stress and dehydration which endangers not only the female glazier, but the team she is working with and others, at the jobsite.

Another critical issue is having properly-sized personal protective equipment (PPE). Planning for and accommodating differences in PPE sizes is often overlooked. Although properly fitting is best, size differences in items such as safety vests and gloves can be managed, but an ill-fitting safety harness or oversized welding gloves and jacket are extremely hazardous.

I Am My Sister’s Keeper

Implementation of IUPAT District Council 21 Women’s Committee affords female glaziers the ability to support, lean on and learn from other female members. With females representing less than a quarter of a percent of IUPAT glaziers, the Women’s Committee is focused on identifying and removing the barriers that exist for women to enter the finishing trades. Recently, the IUPAT adopted the committee’s recommendations regarding maternity leave enabling new mothers to receive supplemental income in states where maternity leave is not provided. These varying levels of mentorship, comradery and support mechanisms set female glaziers on the path for successful careers.

Stephanie Staub is the director of marketing for the Architectural Glass Institute in Philadelphia. She can be reached at stephanie@theagi.org

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