Move over Bob: time for the trades to make room for women.
Entry by Cameron Bauer, Operations Manager, 31/07/2017
According to a recently published report compiled by the Scottish Parliament, women only account for 2% of the construction workforce. With the total construction workforce totalling 150,000 individuals, that means that in all of Scotland, there are only 3,000 women on job-sites. In terms of population density, this means that there are only 0.06 female construction workers per square mile.
In America, the statistics are a little bit better, with women representing 8.9% of the construction workforce. However, when you compare that to Denmark, for example, where the industry is 25% female, it's clear that there is still a long way to go.
We recently discovered Move Over Bob, a movement in the US which is being lead by a young woman named Angela Cacace. Through her Instagram and Facebook pages, she is campaigning to make women in the trades more visible in an effort to counter the negative stereotypes and misconceptions that they face.
Today, I was fortunate to catch up with her for a brief chat about who she is, what sparked her interest in construction work, and what Move Over Bob aims to achieve. I found her story to be very inspiring; it's one that serves as an example of what can be achieved with a little bit of dedication, bravery, and community support.
conversation edited for length and clarity
Cameron Bauer (CB): So what got you interested in construction?
Angela Cacace (AC): I've always loved building and design. All growing up, I saved birthday money to repaint my bedroom every year. I'd paint my friend’s rooms too, whoever would let me. I used to gather kids together to build things outside, whether it was a community garden or dog houses, working with my hands has always been a need for me. My Dad was a teacher but worked in construction for extra money so he was always very handy and encouraging when it came to me wanting to learn as well. When I bought a house in North Carolina, he and I built a large deck for it. He left the tools at my house and the rest is history now lol
I tackled my kitchen renovation and was in building heaven!
Last year, my husband was showing pictures of some of the work I had done to our house including the kitchen. His co-worker told him that I should submit my work to This Old House Magazine, so I did. I got a phone call from their magazine's editor saying I won their national competition for Kitchen remodels and they wanted to send a staging and photography crew to my house for a feature in their October issue.
CB: That's amazing! Is that online anywhere?
CB: That is a tremendous upgrade!
AC: Thank you!
CB: You really have an eye for design. Do you intend to work in the trades yourself?
AC: Yes, I have since been taking on projects for other people and have been in a building technologies program here in NC. I’m currently studying for my commercial contractor’s license
I love building cabinetry and doing finishing carpentry. I am currently setting up a formal Design build company that focuses on residential and smaller commercial projects that are in need of custom carpentry (i.e. built ins, cabinets, retro fitting historic homes)
CB: That's really cool; cabinetry and finish work are two of my favourite parts of the job too (I also like framing a good bit too though).
AC: Framing is so much fun!
CB: How are you finding the course you're taking? Are most of your classmates male?
AC: I love the courses I'm in. It's what led me to Move Over Bob. One of the first classes I took had 16 people in it, half were women. I made a post on FB saying, "fun fact: half the people in my construction class are women" and then jokingly put #moveoverbob. The response was waaay more positive than I imagined. I then went to class and was talking to other girls and most of them said they were only taking the class to learn for themselves so they could do their own work or work for friends but didn't believe there was work out there for them; that there weren't available jobs for them working alongside men. That’s when I decided to start Move Over Bob to find the women out there that have been paving the way and showing that it's possible and they do exist.
CB: Those seem to be common themes: women taking an interest in learning these skills out of a desire to be more self-reliant, but experiencing self-doubt or other barriers to actually entering into the trades as a career choice. So, Move Over Bob then is about advocacy and awareness to counter these negative attitudes?
I got into barbering to make ends meet. Funny enough, to help pay my way through college - I was trying to become a psychiatric social worker so I could work in alternative programs and advocate for more vocational training for students in those programs who are told college is the only option. I never went back to pursue social work but here I am now full circle, talking about filling the skills gap. There is a stigma about working in the trades but I can say first hand, I'm grateful for my barbering trade. I don't have college debt and it gave me a solid living for the last 10 years so now I can pursue my goals.
Women have a great opportunity to change the ratio with the skills gap we are facing.
CB: I agree with you 100% that there shouldn't be a stigma for working in the trades! You mention the skills gap; here in Scotland it is projected that we will be faced with a gap of 33,000 skilled construction workers by 2020, with an additional 12,000 in executive and management positions within the industry. What is the situation in the US, and what is in the future for Move Over Bob?
AC: There’s a stigma of “college educated is the only respectable way to make a living” - the gap has been decades in the making in the U.S. It’s such a severe problem and I haven't found that the U.S. is being as proactive as other nations about it. I don't know figures off the top of my head regarding number of overall construction workers, but I do know amongst skilled trades like electricians, the average age is around 58. There has been no progression in fuelling the next generation. There has also been very little networking; using social platforms is not the construction industry’s strength.
It has been veeeery challenging as a woman finding resources into construction. For women who didn’t grow up in the construction world, who are without an "in" to the "good ol’ boys" club it’s even more difficult.
I started off with the basic necessity of normalizing women in this male dominated trades... its basic but if it's going anywhere, I felt it's where it needed to begin. To make women like myself know and to let men know, that we are out there. That’s why I thought Instagram was the social platform to start on, but I have a lot of dreams for where I'd like it to go. Hopefully combining my passion for better access to vocational education, as well as sharing those resources with women who don't otherwise know where to find it.
Sorry, that's a lot, lol! It’s like opening a can of worms with me!
CB: That's absolutely ok! It's great that you're so passionate about it!
AC: Also, too...to put into perspective how little the U.S. is addressing and advocating for the skills gap and women in trades: I've been getting groups like yourself reaching out to M.O.B. because there really isn't a lot of big corporations and buzz like there is in Canada, the UK, Australia.
The problem is a lot of groups that exist don't have a lot of social media presence which is why Move Over Bob has been helpful because it's finding women in trades who are associated with these local groups who then provide the necessary information for access to their resources.
I try to give exposure to non-profits and schools whenever I find them. I'd like it to be a way to connect women to other non-profits, schools, apprenticeships that welcome diversity, etc. We have been dreaming about a bus that visits women shelters etc., and has pop-up workshops with information about resources!
CB: I think that about covers it for now, thanks again for taking the time to chat today! Keep in touch!
AC: Happy to! Will do! Have a good night!