It was in December 2016 that our company had the opportunity to hire Ashley Harrison as our first woman resilient floor layer apprentice. Our second woman apprentice, Cecily Hill, started with us in November 2018. When the opportunity to write this article came about, I jumped at it, as I am proud to say that we currently have two women apprentices, and they are both excelling at our shop. As I am a project manager and not an installer, I went straight to Ashley and Cecily to let them briefly discuss being a woman installer in the Detroit market.
Johnston: How did you get interested in the trades?
Harrison: Growing up my father worked in flooring and he would teach me things and also bring me to his side jobs to learn more.
Hill: I wanted something more than just a job. I went from home improvement to the Job Corp program and then to the union.
Johnston: Why did you join Resilient Floor Decorators Local Union No.1045?
Harrison: Flooring is what I was exposed to first, and I enjoyed seeing what I had made.
Hill: It was something new to learn. I already knew painting, drywall, electrical and plumbing, but not the foundation everything is built on top of, the floor.
Johnston: What is a pro and/or con, if any, of being a woman in the field?
Harrison: I feel there is more recognition when a female can complete a challenging task. Something that can be annoying is the pet names I receive from men in the field. It can be degrading, as if they are looking down on me.
Hill: As an apprentice, it can be trying sometimes to keep up with the journeymen, but because I am a detail-oriented individual, that lends to a better working environment.
Johnston: What is a challenge you face day-to-day as a female installer?
Harrison: Some workers don’t like seeing women at the job site. It can bring instant attitude and unnecessary remarks.
Hill: The atmosphere is that you feel the need to prove yourself more than your coworkers. I find, though, that by putting in a hard day’s work others do not ignore you and respect my contribution to the job.
Johnston: What are you doing to encourage more women to enter this trade?
Harrison: Most women think it’s an impossible job/career. They think that they could never do this. I always tell them that it is hard work, but I’m proof a woman can do it and that it’s always worth a try. Everyone should know a trade skill, it’s beneficial.
Hill: I talk about the benefits of the trade to other women
Johnston: What impact do you think you have had as a woman in the industry?
Harrison: I think I’ve made an impact of showing men I can do the job equally or even more precise.
Hill: I can show others that I can and encourage other women to find a trade as well.
Johnston: What are you aspiring to achieve in your role within the industry?
Harrison: To one day be a part of the union board or even be a teacher.
Hill: I want to become a teacher at our union school or become a project manager.
As a project manager helping oversee our installation staff, it was a pleasure to discuss this topic with Ashley and Cecily. We, as women, all face unnecessary challenges in the field due to our gender. Yet we all agree that these challenges are due to others’ bias and ignorance, and we can get the job done. If you believe you can, you can!