Vicki O'Leary, General Organizer, Ironworks International (Photo Credit: MSC)
It's Women in Construction Week, and we're celebrating by highlighting an array of women in the steel industry every day this week. Today, we're featuring Vicki O'Leary, a general organizer with Ironworkers International. Find out how she got her start in the industry, what challenges she's had to overcome, and what changes she'd like to see for the industry moving forward.
How did you get your start in the industry?
O'Leary: It was a bet between me and my older brother. My brother and Dad were both ironworkers and he told me that I couldn't do it. Game on!!
What barriers or challenges have you had to overcome as a female in the industry?
O'Leary: The biggest challenge is having to prove your skill time and time again. When a man is on the job site, it is assumed that he has the skill, and he has to literally prove he doesn't. It is assumed that women, on the other hand, can not do it and they have to prove that they can.
What piece of advice would you give to your 10-year-old self?
O'Leary: Keep that strong mental attitude that you can do anything that your brother can do. Do not let gender norms define your future.
What changes would you like to see for the future of the industry?
O'Leary: There are simply not enough "men" to do the work in construction. I would like to see women on job sites that are wanted as well as much needed. I would like to see that women and people of color are eventually seen not as women or people of color, but as trades workers.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
O'Leary: Construction is a career. You can make a great middle-class living. Gender, race, and sexual orientation should never be seen as a negative, but rather as a way of seeing things from a different lens.
O'Leary will speak at this year's NASCC: The Steel Conference, April 22-24, in Atlanta. Check out her session titled "Work is Making Me Sick!" on the importance of fostering a safe work culture and environment, and don't miss her contribution to the panel discussion "A Job Site Built for Tomorrow" on bringing in more diverse talent to support the increasing need for safety and equity on the front lines.
See interview on AISC.org.
For more information about Women in Construction Week, visit www.nawic.org.