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What It’s Like To Be One Of The Only Female Construction Workers In America

Patricia Valoy was not the typical worker when she began her apprenticeship at a construction site in college. As a woman of color, she is rare among construction workers: women make up just 2.6 percent of all employees in construction and extraction jobs, and about three-quarters of those women are white, according to a report released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) on Wednesday. Hispanic women make up just 0.4 percent of construction workers, while black women are 0.2 percent, and Asian and Native American are each 0.1 percent.

“What bothered me the most was the sexual

harassment and feeling intimidated.”

But she was excited about her apprenticeship. While studying civil engineering at Columbia University, she began to find herself drawn to construction management. “It’s the type of work where you deal more with people, see the product as it evolves, as opposed to engineering where a lot of the design work is just on paper,” she said. “I was like, I think this will be a better fit for my personality.” The apprenticeship she got working on a high-rise luxury building near Central Park in New York City paid well and had hours she liked. “I thought it would be the best internship ever.”

Those hopes were dashed on the very first day. She went to the construction site along with another young woman and two young men. The first construction manager who came to get them “literally split us down gender lines,” she said. “He grabbed the two boys and said, ‘Come with me.’” As an excuse, he told the two women, “Sorry, I don’t work with women in this job, it’s nothing personal.”

It got worse from there.

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