Fighting for Women's Equality

Tradeswomen Tuesdays: Cecilia, a Carpenter

July 29, 2014 | by

Equal Rights Advocates is a proud member of the Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues, which unites local, regional and national expertise and action to support tradeswomen and women who want access to these occupations. As part of our continuing commitment to advancing the conversation on employment issues faced by women in the trades, we are proud to announce that going forward we will be hosting a weekly feature profiling a woman in the trades. This platform is meant to provide a space for tradeswomen to provide a firsthand perspective on their careers. This week’s installment of Tradeswomen Tuesdays introduces us to Cecilia. Check in every Tuesday to learn more about the inspiring women of the trades.

“I’m a shy person, but in this business you have to learn to speak up,” says Cecilia Baez Raymond, a 7-year Union Carpenter in New York City.

Cecilia has practiced speaking up throughout her career, to the point that it is very hard to believe she’s shy. When she first started as an apprentice, Cecilia believed that to understand her trade she needed to talk to everyone and get as much information as possible. Today, she is an Executive Member of the UBC Latino Club, a member of the New York City District Council of Carpenters (NYDCC) Women’s Committee and a member of the Fraternal Order of Woodworkers. She is also involved with the Job Steward Alliance and the NYDCC Titans, a fitness group which will be doing the Tunnel to the Towers Run in September to honor their 18 fallen brothers who died in the September, 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. On that day, Cecilia, a then-active member of the military, was stationed at a local hospital. Shy or not, she was prepared to do whatever was needed for all New Yorkers. Cecilia left the Army in 2003, having risen to the rank of sergeant. For three years, she was in a period of transition, doing temporary and clerical work, and raising her children. In 2006, while helping friends with their painting business, she learned of the Non-traditional Employment for Women, (NEW) a New York City training program. She attended NEW’s pre-apprenticeship program and with their help entered the New York City District Council of Carpenters Apprenticeship Program. She hasn’t looked back since. “I have always loved working with my hands, when I was younger, I used to help my mom around the house, painting, building and fixing things. My room couldn’t just be a simple room, I had to build a loft bed,” she says. Being in the military also helped Cecilia prepare for a career in construction. Raised an only child, she learned team work and how to survive in a male-dominated environment while in the military. As an apprentice, and one of the few women on the job, she was assigned to get the coffee orders. “I didn’t really like it, but I used it as a opportunity to expand my network and get to know all of the carpenters and built relationships,” she says. She learned a lot from that network including that she shouldn’t stay in one job just because she was good at it. “You have to be vocal and let them know that you are there to learn all the skills.”

CBR and Daughter 2014

Cecilia and her daughter

What she loves most about the job is that it provides her with the opportunity to work one job and support her family. Instead of working multiple jobs to feed her three children, a daughter and two sons, she has time to spend with them. Her youngest is still in elementary school while her middle son is enrolled in the same junior high she went to as a child. Her daughter is in high school. Being a carpenter allows her the ability to continue the love of working with her hands she discovered as a child – and be the mom she wants to be for her children. Her advice to other tradeswomen is to be involved in the local and the club meetings, where she says all the information is shared about available jobs. “I’ve always had to push myself on jobs. I am not a company worker, so every time I go to a new site, they look at my frame and don’t realize how strong I am. They ask me what I can do, and that gives me the chance to tell them all about my skills and my work. That’s how I get hired,” she says. This post was written by Gabrielle Hickmon and Francoise Jacobsohn of the Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues. Last week: Kathleen, an electrician from San Mateo, CA.

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