Last episode, we heard from two SMART sisters — Lisa Davis and Vanessa Carman — who discussed how they got into the industry, training and mentoring, growing diversity in construction and opportunities for women in the sheet metal trade. In Episode 6, we continue that conversation with two more female leaders and activists in SMART who have taken the lead in creating new opportunities for women in the building trades.
Our first guest is Mechelle McNew, chair of the SMART Women’s Committee and a longtime business manager at Local 464 in Ponca City, Oklahoma. She discusses how she got into the trade, how workplaces have changed for the better for women in the industry and what it was like being the first woman to run for and win elected office in her local.
Our second guest is Leah Rambo, a native New Yorker who serves as the training administrator for Local 28 and has broken new ground for women and minority members in her local. She is also the co-chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues. Leah shares her story of coming up in the sheet metal industry, addressing bias and harassment in the workplace, mentoring and female role models, and the importance of SMART doing targeted recruitment and outreach to women and people of color.
Both Michelle and Leah also discuss the important work of the SMART Women’s Committee, including attending the 2019 Women Build Nations conference with a large cohort of SMART sisters, and how the committee helped to draft and organize around a number of resolutions that were ultimately adopted at the 2nd SMART General Convention in August 2019.
In addition, listen for the open mic segment at the end of this episode, where General President Joseph Sellers responds to a question about what SMART is doing in response to protests and rallies for racial justice across the United States and around the world.
- VIDEO: Leah Rambo – Women in Manual Work Oral Histories
This video interview is part of an international archive documenting the experiences of women working in the manual trades and non-traditional employment.
- Panel: Sheet Metal Industry Must Become More Inclusive
March 2018 SNIPS magazine article.
- Diversifying the Workforce: Recruiting Women and Minority Members
PDF used during panel presentation at 2018 Partners in Progress conference.
- The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues
A national coalition of tradeswomen, alllies and advocates addressing the lack of access, opportunity and equity in the construction industry and other non-traditional occupations.
- Western Resources Center for Women in Apprenticeship
A joint project of Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Seattle-based Apprenticeship & Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW), and Oakland, California-based Tradeswomen, Inc.
ANEW focuses on equity and inclusion in the construction industry, for both women and people of color. It is the oldest, continuously running pre-apprenticeship program in the United States.
- Oregon Tradeswomen
Oregon Tradeswomen promotes success for women in the trades through education, leadership, and mentorship.
- Tradeswomen Inc.
Founded in 1979, Tradeswomen, Inc. was one of California’s first organizations for women in the trades. Its mission is focused on outreach, recruitment, retention and leadership development for women in blue-collar skilled crafts.
- Tradeswomen Build Nations
Website of NABTU’s annual Tradeswomen Build Nations conference.
- International Training Institutes
ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada.
- Women in Construction: #MeToo in the Building Trades?
A one-pager from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on sexual harassment in the building trades.