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Women in construction safety is a topic that we find isn't talked about enough so we pulled in Sherry Holmes from Make It Right and Abby Ferri, a safety professional, author, and podcast host to talk with us about what it is like to be a woman in safety. 

 

Check out their interview below or read the transcript below the video. Today is the day to put safety first and go from just a safe workplace to a workplace with a safety culture.

 

 

Stephanie Hunter (00:00):

We are so excited to do our first video conference on women in construction and women in safety. And we have two amazing guests with us today. First we have Sherry Holmes from make it right. Sherry is a home. Renovator a TV personality, a keynote speaker, and an advocate for women in trades. Abby Ferri is a practical, innovative, creative, and influential safety professional who is out in the field all the time. She's also an author and a podcast host. With her being a safety consultant as well. So welcome to you both. My name is Stephanie Hunter. I'm the co-founder and COO of Ving so welcome. And what I thought would be really good for everyone to hear first is sort of the origins of how you each got involved in construction and then in Abby's case safety. So if we could go ahead and maybe if Sherry could start, I think people just always like to know how you ended up doing with what you're doing.

 

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Sherry Holmes (01:08):

Sure. I think it's kind of a different story than most people expect because I didn't have any interest in construction to be honest. My parents split when I was pretty young and we would go and see my dad every other week for a couple of days. He was usually on a job site. He was always working at his construction company. So a lot of the time we would go to a job site to hang out with her dad, or we would be at his house and building some kind of a project or working on things around the house.

 

So when we were younger, we built, you know, like little toolboxes or bird houses, cutesy, little things like that. And then we go to his job sites and probably cause more of a ruckus than help. We would pretend we were helping where we were mostly just making a mess and chasing each other on a site which is not safe. I'm sorry, Abby. It is not a safety thing. It was quite a long time ago. So it wasn't as frowned upon. That's a terrible thing to just have just admitted, but yeah, we used to play around on a construction site. Then sometime in high school I was always kind of the kid who never really knew what I was going to do. I always worked odd jobs several at a time to make extra money. I had no real direction and my dad tried to talk me into joining the construction site and I kept saying no, first of all, cause I thought it was just kind of a fun bonding thing we did on the weekends. And secondly, because I had absolutely no interest in being on television long story short, cause I talk a lot, so feel free to cut me off.

 

I ended up joining his company just to help with some editing. When I was thinking about different school options and somehow when he went down to new Orleans to build the first house after hurricane Katrina they convinced me to go because I was a backpacker, I love to travel and you can't really say no to a new place. You haven't been or to a family that desperately needs your help. And that was the first job I'd ever found myself, like really wearing a tool pouch and doing the work. And I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn't know how to read a measuring tape. And I had to have my brother teach me like around a corner because I didn't want everyone to know that I had no idea what I was doing. And I just had the attitude of doing the best I could regardless of what my knowledge level was. And here I am.

 

Stephanie Hunter (03:31):

I think people would be surprised at that. How you came about like a, a circle to get there.

 

Sherry Holmes (03:37):

Yeah, for sure.

 

Stephanie Hunter (03:39):

Abby, how about you? Is it, was your start also early on as well?

 

Abby Ferri (03:44):

A little bit. Yeah. I'm similar. I resonate with the lack of direction. I feel like my construction story comes a little bit later in college. So I had started out rewind back to high school. I would work in an office at a construction company that was in my hometown and there are these two people that were like never in the office yet as the office assistant, I was delivering a paycheck to their desk and then the paycheck would be gone the next day. And I was like, what kind of sorcery is this job that they do? And I learned that they were the safety guys. And so I just kind of filed that in my back pocket.

 

And when I was ready to graduate from college it was three years or it was a year early. I finished my undergrad in three years and the two guys I had talked to that were in safety, they both went through a master's degree program at the college I was at. So I thought, well, what the heck? It's a one-year master's program in environmental health and safety seems cool. So I got in and I did it and I've loved it. And I was the only person in my class that actually had any interest in construction. So whenever a company would come by to do recruiting or mock interviews that had to do with construction, everyone was just like, go, go talk to Abby. And it was actually great because then I had like no competition, even though, you know, I did well for these job interviews. And I actually had a job before I graduated from college and coming from Northern Minnesota and then going to Southern California for my first job. It was pretty sweet.

 

I just, I started in construction safety right off the bat right out of college. And it's just been the best career path ever. I love being on a construction site. I think in college, one of my prerequisites or desires for a job was that I could wear jeans every day. So I get to do that. So it kind of comes from that, that lack of direction a little bit. And that construction is just, it's a fun environment. So I have always had some element of construction in my career in the past 17 years that it's been since those times in college.

 

Stephanie Hunter (05:49):

So I think what's really interesting is that you both start about it younger and you had that field experience. I know both of spend time with younger women and mentoring and teaching. Do you think that's the same type of exposure they get? Like they have that aha moment similarly or are there different opportunities for them? So how are you seeing women come into the construction slash safety area?

 

Sherry Holmes (06:17):

Sorry, I don't want to cut anyone off. So I was hesitating speaking there. I think it's a lot different now than it used to be when I was in school. I don't really recall being presented the opportunity a lot or did I have a lot of exposure to the opportunity career opportunities in the trades? It was kind of more home-ec focused for me anyway, and I guess that's showing my age a little bit, but I think nowadays it's so much better. Whether it's in what do you call like a counselor in school or a career counselor? It was pretty simple term. You can speak to them about different opportunities. There's so many, so many options and so many careers under the umbrella of skilled trades that I wasn't aware of. And I didn't know it was a viable career option for me, but now people come in to speak in schools and they present these opportunity to young women as well as the boys in class. So I think it is a lot different, a lot more women are joining just because I don't think they had the knowledge and were aware that it was something that they could, you know, run with and be great at.

 

Abby Ferri (07:28):

Yeah, I think there's definitely a there's more girl power kind of stuff, right. Like I helped out a local girl scout program it's called Rosie's girls. And so they have the girls girl Scouts, like actual scout age. So like tweens and teen age where they can actually use power tools and they did do the bird house thing and they've made some other you know, projects. I forget there was some mailbox or something that they did too. And I got to come in and do the safety training for it. So not only were the girls being exposed to construction and building and trades and also the staff at the college that helped with this it was majority female that was helping with the program.

 

So they got the construction knowledge, but then they also heard about safety as a career because my selfish goal, when I go out and talk to younger groups is not only to let them know that safety is our career path, but that it's, it's awesome. And then also bring in the construction part of it too. So for me personally, I, I had no idea that safety was really a job. I think it was late high school, maybe early college that my dad actually introduced me to an EHS professional at the paper mill he was working at. So that was kind of an early introduction into safety. But again, I didn't really think of it as a career that was for me until I saw it a little bit later on.

 

Sherry Holmes (08:49):

That's amazing the Rosie's girls. Oh my goodness. Like I just, and, and to have girls be, to do it without the intimidation of how having boys or men around them as well. So they can really focus on what they're doing instead of being scared or intimidated or nervous.

 

Abby Ferri (09:05):

Yeah. They, they did some cool stuff. They, with safety, we have a lot of fun props, right. So we get to bring the PPE and the girls like to try on the different PPE and at this particular college here locally Dunwoody college one of the instructors is a woman in like, like an electrical program. So she's an electrician by trade. And so we got her dressed up and like the arc flash suits and the girls think that's really cool.

 

Sherry Holmes (09:31):

Yeah. Those are pretty cool.

 

Stephanie Hunter (09:33):

That was a very much of the hands-on experience goes further beyond sort of the general mentoring. It's really putting people in that environment early on to get that excitement is that, that sounds like it's real. I think I'm Sherry. I saw you speaking once to maybe other students maybe from Conestoga, same kind of thing where, yeah.

 

Sherry Holmes (09:57):

I work with Conestoga. I also work with skills Canada, which I didn't mention and skills Canada is so wonderful because what they do is create, it turns into a competition, but they introduce skilled trades to I think public school ages. I'm terrible with children's ages. I'm sorry, but before they get into high school, so that they're exposed to all these different ideas and it's called try a trade. So what they do is come to this area we were traveling around Canada doing this COVID so unfortunately it was more of a virtual thing this year.

 

Sherry Holmes (10:30):

But so this try a trade. You go to this area that we have, and you go to each different station, you get to try a different trade. So whether that be carpentry, makeup clay work, masonry, there's so many different options and they get to experience these things. And I've also done the same thing with safety equipment, because I wasn't really aware of the different career opportunities within the safety realm. So I did get to try and all those suits and stuff on, on, on those kinds of occasions, which was really fun.

 

Abby Ferri (11:00):

That's awesome. Yeah. There's actually, there's a lot of women getting into the safety field now and, you know, you could go like along gender stereotypes, which early in my career, people they had first asked me to what's it like to be a woman in construction? And I thought, well, it's pretty awesome. You know, I never really thought of it as a thing that would be not great. So I think that's key too, is just to show people just by, by you doing just by you living your career. And you're like that living almost cartoon character, I see you're you're Batman. And it's like, it's like a super power, super power, almost like we're kind of cartoon characters to some of the kids that they don't really understand what trades or careers are available to them.

 

And I think what happens is when they, I love the try a trade and like the Rosie's girls thing for that exact purpose is that you see the light bulb go off for, for the girls a lot where they're like, Oh, this is actually cool. You know, I can do this and what someday I can get paid to do this. And that's when the true light bulbs go off. Cause then you can say, well, let me tell you the average salary for an electrician here in my County, Hennepin County, Minnesota, I think is like $90,000 us. Yeah. So you start dropping those steps to the kids and they're like, Oh, I could have a great paying job without going to college. Plus get my, my training paid for, I mean, it's, it's silly for people to not consider that as part of their career path.

 

Stephanie Hunter (12:34):

So really it sounds like the numbers are going up. There's more interest because I, I also know that there's, there's a bit of a shortage right now in the trades in construction, in safety. So we're in construction, I think maybe it's around 9% or like in that area. And the trades are even lower, maybe around 3% and safety. You're not quite at 20%. So those numbers really have to come up pretty quickly to to be able to have a stronger workforce available to do the work.

 

Sherry Holmes (13:04):

Absolutely. I don't think w the world really can run without trades. You know, whether it be road work or, you know skilled trade is hairdressing. So, you know, we, women men go to the Harrison on how often we won't have that. We won't have the opportunity to wait or in construction. Obviously the more people who want to renovate the longer you're going to have to wait for someone who is skilled and knows what they're doing or for new builds and, and everything like that. It's just, it's going to spiral. And it's insane that people don't realize what a lucrative, amazing career it can be. And because we're in such need for people in the skilled trades you know, you don't necessarily have to go to college. Not that I'm saying schooling is bad. Schooling is amazing, but you can get into those trades that we need to hire you. So you're going to have a job you're going to get paid very well. And you're going to be so proud of yourself at the end of the day.

 

Abby Ferri (14:00):

And you can always go back schools, you know, you could go back and imagine, you know, someone that has pipe fitter experience in the field, and now they go back to college and they're going to be a project manager and get that engineering degree. I mean, that's a huge, awesome combination when they come back into the workforce. But I wanted to like switch a little bit because I it's like all like roses, whatever that, you know, Hey, skilled trades and it's great. And let's go. But the dark side to me is that often I see construction companies really saying like, we want women, we want diversity. We want, you know, young people to enter the trades, but they're not thinking as much down the road about how they're going to keep those people and something that I've talked to a lot of women about it, especially women that have kids or families or other relatives that they have to take of is that the nature of a construction trade career, it can be so varied that you might have this one job site right now that's close to home, but then the next one is like three hours away. And the company's like, yeah, just go, you know, leave for a week. And you come home on the weekend or just relocate and every not everyone can do that. So they, they do lose some of those great people that they attract to the profession. And I think what then happens is that construction has to figure out how they're going to retain us. And and the other women in the trades. It's, it's a problem that we see right

 

Stephanie Hunter (15:26):

Now. Are there any things that you see that are successful? I know something that's near and dear to your heart is mixing technology and other pieces in merging that together. So, you know, there's the field work and then there's technology. You know, I know that we spend a lot of time within our company looking at technology and figuring out what type of tools we can provide to people out in the field to make it easier. So when you talk about a retention or learning or making the job easier, can you talk a little bit about that?

 

Abby Ferri (15:59):

Yeah. I mean, I'm seeing things where people are thinking outside of the box with like a subject matter expert. So maybe it's a trades person with longevity in the career. And then the people that are out at those remote project sites, they have a person they can call or a person that can do a video chat with, to, you know, if they have an issue and the person's working remotely and solo, maybe. So if someone can't travel to the next project site, they can still be available as like a remote subject matter expert. So that's one way.

 

Stephanie Hunter (16:30):

And Sherry, I know that you do a lot with smart homes and technology that you introduced in the residential side. Are there things that you see are coming more and more to the forefront and that you know, homeowners need to consider about technology?

 

Sherry Holmes (16:48):

Honestly, I think smart homes are blowing up. Everyone seems like a, Hey Alexa and Google home and, you know, the ring doorbell or Schlag locks. Like there's always something I see a lot more roof panels now for which is amazing. And just to conserve help to conserve energy and, you know, it's, it's energy efficient, it saves money. Amazing. I'm still, honestly, I think there's so much to learn about it and there's so much always coming out. It's great. I think when, what, when you have a family or when you have children one thing that I love and I always tell people is the Schlage locks. So I have a lock system on my front door and I can give people unique codes to get into my house when I'm home or not home. I can also talk to Google and say, you know, like open my front door. Cause it connects that way, which is really great. I have a kid, I always have my hands full, so it's good that everything can be done using words that loud, which is great. I talk too much obviously. So that's one of the things that I think is so fabulous and you're not giving keys away to your household. You're giving a passcode that can expire. You also have an app on your phone. So if I'm out of the country, I can check to make sure my door's locked, which I think is really great. So that, one's one I definitely push and I think is amazing just because it's safe.

 

Stephanie Hunter (18:16):

Yeah. And certainly because people are spending more time at home. Yeah. Especially now, especially now. And, and I think you know, Abby, you were talking a little bit about that. People retiring and those base and people moving on, I think that issue about transference of knowledge and how were successfully able to take people who have been in the field for years and years and years and make sure that the younger generations get that information and how they best learn and have that available to them. Is are you finding a lot of good strong use for things like so on demand learning or, you know, things that you can pull up on devices that are available to you? I know that's something that we actually really encourage people with. Microburst learning like short burst learning and having those videos or those PDFs or checklists available to people out in the field or those things that are, that you find helpful from a safety and transfer knowledge standpoint.

 

Abby Ferri (19:17):

Yeah. Like I wish more companies would use technology like that because safety messages, I mean, okay, so COVID right. COVID like changed everything and you can look at it negative. I like to look at it positive because I feel it really forced a lot of people to move the needle like that much quicker on their use of technology because you have to now I mean, we're doing video calls like this all the time. I'm a podcaster. I am no stranger to recording my voice for an Alexa skill. So I liked this kind of stuff. Other people used to be very freaked out about it. And so they're kind of creeping slowly into it or they're quickly trying to catch up. So things like recording video or just getting that knowledge down from the folks that I was going to say older, I don't mean older, but people that just have more experience, you know, more to, to more to teach to the other people at the project site.

 

Abby Ferri (20:12):

So I think as companies are worried about losing that institutional knowledge, that they need to do something about it. So get those workers with more experience and have them record things, or have them look at the checklist and programs and things that are going into a learning management system for the younger or the new workers. I, I just think technology is our solution for so many of the things that are going on right now. And I just wish people had started a little bit longer ago, but Hey, you know, a pandemic fine, you know, that that can be a good catalyst. So hopefully people continue to take this and run with it.

 

Sherry Holmes (20:51):

Absolutely. You're definitely right. Funny story, sorry. I don't mean to change the subject at all. I used to work with a home inspector and he refused to use technology. He didn't know how to text. He didn't have an email and he didn't have a voicemail, so you could call and if he didn't answer that was it. So you would try to set up times and you couldn't do anything online. You'd have to always just call and call and call and help you to answer his phone. It's like, I hate recording my voice. I don't like taking videos of myself, but this is the world we live in. And he just, it wasn't that he was, you know too caught up in his ways. He he just refused, just didn't want to do technology. And it's Oh, it was so funny. It was so difficult. It was so difficult. Wonderful.

 

Abby Ferri (21:38):

Yeah, I, yeah, I worked with people like that too. It was almost like a, like a badge of honor, like, Hey, I don't know how to email. And I'd say that's really bad because we're all emailing now. And I saw this happen in my life where I used to work with people like that. And then again, working on with the Dunwoody technology or Dunwoody college folks, I was an adjunct in their construction management program. And on day one I asked people like, what is your dream job? You know, what's the job title that you're going for in this education. Now I was expecting to hear project manager project executive vice president of operations. And the, the answer most people said was superintendent. And I, I had to check myself. I'm like, wow, I'm old because in the past superintendents, they didn't go to college.

 

Abby Ferri (22:28):

And now it's a routine thing that a person is getting a college education to become a job site superintendent. So it just shows like how fast technology can can push things forward, but also how fast technology becomes part of the job. So some superintendent from the past that I, that I have worked with in the past, they had to retire because they couldn't keep up with how things were going with using technology. And now these kids, you know, are coming out of these college programs and it's just, it's raised the level of professionalism on the project site, which is super exciting.

 

Stephanie Hunter (23:04):

I mean, I think that's just very, very, very powerful to have on, on the sites and everything else. And actually when we talk about things that are really very much been ingrained in both of you, you know, things become habits. And I know Abby, you wrote just very recently during the pandemic the safety habit, and I would love to hear, I mean, we really want people to read the book. It's a fantastic, it's a great book, very practical. It would be great if you could maybe share two key habits and then I would love it if Sherry could comment then on the habits and how those might are, you know, what her thoughts are too. So that'd be great.

 

Abby Ferri (23:42):

Okay. So before I forget, since you gave me like a parameter, two things, I have to start with that. So I'm going to say instinct and sharing. So I think that people need to get in the habit of at least, you know, if an instinct appears that, you know, something doesn't feel safe or it doesn't seem quite right, that they need to do something with that, whether it's ask someone a question stop and take some extra time or remove themselves from a situation. I think instinct is something that we should get in the habit of listening to. And I guess that could be coupled with like a woman's intuition kind of thing, that we might be better at this. And, but then on the flip side, a lot of us women, we kind of push that aside too. Sometimes you have that voice coming up in the back of your head, you need to just like, bring it forward and understand like, why is that voice telling me something there's something there. Then the other habit would be to get into sharing. So this would be sharing life experience or I like safety through storytelling. And a lot of times safety people, even too, we sometimes have an example where we are the example, the bad example. And so it's important to make it a habit of sharing and being more transparent because people can learn from your perspective and from your experience.

 

Sherry Holmes (25:02):

I think that's awesome because people learn from mistakes regardless. I've made plenty of from don't get me wrong. I think instinct is great because sometimes you don't know how to get yourself out of a situation, or if you feel uncomfortable, what to really do. You can be intimidated to tell someone, but if you don't feel like something's right, or you feel uncomfortable, chances are probably isn't right. And you should be uncomfortable. And not always to feel guilty or terrible telling someone you don't want to do it, or you don't feel safe doing it because yeah, I feel like at some point along the road, we were taught that, just do what you're told, don't worry about it. And then the sh the sharing for the storytelling totally with you on that, that I think I always share what I've done wrong. I'm surprised I have all of my fingers. I've definitely made mistakes because you're learning or you're just not paying attention. And that's the biggest one. Always, always, always, always, always pay attention. Not it doesn't matter how tired you are

 

Abby Ferri (26:02):

And if you're too tired to pay attention,

 

Sherry Holmes (26:06):

Stop instinct to get off the chest. Yes.

 

Abby Ferri (26:10):

Well, there's also too like that supervisory element. So like the instinct and the sharing thing can be for the craft worker, but also for the supervisor that if you see that someone's having a tough time on remove them from the hazardous situation, like if you see like a carpenter or an iron worker that has to go and work at height and during like the morning talk or morning stretch and flex, you see like, Hmm, I don't think that person's really with it today. Do something about that. Because if something were to happen something negative, you would never live with yourself. So it's important to like speak that stuff out. And I think that's the perspective that women bring to the project sites and to safety especially is that care element, but also like just saying it, you know, like I see this, I'm going to say it, and we're going to do something about it. We're going to hash it out. Instead of like a project manager that I used to work with, he called it the default to action that a construction worker, typically male just wants to get it done and they're not going to stop and think safety. So I try to frame it as like thinking safety is an action. It is moving something forward. It's not stopping you and making you take longer to do your job.

 

Sherry Holmes (27:25):

That's a great way of looking at it, especially on a job site, because you're working, you have to work on a timeline and a lot of the, a lot of the time, you don't really consider everything and you're just working and pushing forward, but it is moving forward, thinking of safety. It's also moving forward in your life. If you think of your safety, right.

 

Stephanie Hunter (27:45):

I really liked that you both shared the perspectives that you're bringing on site, which, you know, we are talking about women in construction, women in safety. And I think that perspective feels very different to me than, you know, and, and that's, and I think from that standpoint, it's very exciting because it's bringing just another way to look at something. And that I think is something that's very powerful and beneficial for everyone, because it seems as if it will bring the entire workforce up another notch, which is, is a good thing,

 

Abby Ferri (28:18):

For sure. Yeah. That's why you know, some people are kind of negative about all the diversity equity and inclusion talk right now. And I just always say, no, that's what we need. We need to have other perspectives because we, if we always have the same monotone perspective at the table, we're not going to have these new solutions or new ways of doing things, or sometimes better ways of doing things if you're just always trying to keep those other voices from the table. So I just think the more voices the better.

 

Sherry Holmes (28:47):

Thousand percent when I was, I don't know, I'm just going to throw a story in here. When I first started in construction, it was funny because we were doing a PPE meeting and we were being fitted for are all safety harnesses and that kind of stuff. And they didn't have a harness that fit my body. So all the harnesses previously were made for men, not to mention that we have a trust area as well, that needs to be kind of considered. So they didn't have something small enough. I could literally get several limbs through a loop at its tightest setting. And it was a very uncomfortable and not thought of women have breasts, so it needs to be considered they had to go in special order and make me a harness where onsite, because those other voices,

 

Abby Ferri (29:39):

the one size fits all. Didn't fit?

 

Sherry Holmes (29:41):

weird. Right?

 

Abby Ferri (29:45):

Yeah. That's, that's that's still a problem actually. And it's one of the things that I like to work on with my, my group that I'm in the women in safety excellence with the American society of safety professionals and harnesses are one of the points of conversation because also you know, we talk about the, the chest fitting too. It's not just the size, but also the cut of these harnesses. And so there's like these cross front harnesses that a lot of manufacturers have come up with and said, here you go, ladies, the cross front harness, that's what you need. And when you really try on some of those, some of them don't fit for some of the women. And some women just want the same one that, you know, the men wear. It's just that we need a different size or capability to change the size in different ways.

 

Abby Ferri (30:34):

And there's a harness I found from a manufacturer that actually is everybody finds it to be awesome because it takes the weight off of the waist and the shoulders like distributes it differently. So it feels like you're barely even wearing a harness. So when you bring those different perspectives about size, it actually can benefit everybody. So it starts off as a conversation about like, we need a small harness to fit Sherry, but then it becomes, well, Mike needs a really big one. So, you know, it just becomes a conversation about having options and actually taking into account fit considerations.

 

Sherry Holmes (31:11):

Yeah. absolutely. Like my brother is a lot bigger than me. So we had that very large range. And, and you know, what, not all women want to stand out on site. I'm one of them I like to have what the men have. I don't want. And not saying there's anything wrong with this. I don't want to have just pink boots or just pink harnesses and a hard hat. I want to wear it. The men are wearing, because I already know that I'm a woman onset. They can tell I'm a woman on a site. I don't need to necessarily always look like one.

 

Abby Ferri (31:41):

Yes. Thank you for saying that. Because that was, that was like one of the main things, when some of us women and safety started having that conversation, we were like, I am sick of a manufacturer saying, Oh, well, there's options for women. There's pink and purple and teal. And sometimes leopard print. It's like, that's not an option. That's not something based in science.

 

Sherry Holmes (32:00):

No. It drove me crazy. I only recently started even wearing pink outside of work because I refused to look like that. And you know, when I first started on, in construction, I would get, you know, called Barbie or this and that. And you're Oh, you just construction Barbie. I was like that. Isn't funny. I don't, I think it's, everyone's welcome to their own choices. I'm not saying it's bad. It's just not something, I don't think it should be our only option because some women don't want that, you know, we're on a job site to work, not to, To stand out.

 

Abby Ferri (32:36):

Yeah. Like sometimes you just want to, you just want to be there just like everybody else.

 

Sherry Holmes (32:40):

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Stephanie Hunter (32:43):

But I love that both of you are doing is kind of really what you were talking about, about speaking up and sharing your stories because clearly both of you've gotten to a very high level of what you're doing. And I think the more and more people that can hear these messages and internalize them and not be afraid who go into the field to go into trades and construction and safety and have mentors and people like the, both of you, then I think we're getting in the right direction. I think that said, are there specific things takeaways that companies can do that can really start addressing how women can move up as well? So getting into the field is the first step, the other part, you know, just learning and having an interest. And the next part is how do they grow? How, how do we retain the women? How do they actually move into leadership positions? Like the, both of you are there other good takeaways that you could say to women who were interested in going the path, but saying, don't worry, you can get into it, but you can also keep on going, what are those things that you would want to say?

 

Sherry Holmes (33:57):

That's, that's a tougher question. I think I've, I've been lucky enough with a lot of the places I've worked that I think I would say to women, you know, just push as hard as you can and work as hard as you can. And it will happen because I do think that men and, you know, and, and people in leadership roles respect that. So the more you prove that you want to be there, I think a lot more doors open for you.

 

Abby Ferri (34:25):

I, I tend to agree with that to a point, so I don't want to disagree, but I'll, I'll add something to that. I a couple of weekends ago there was the trades women build nations event and it was done virtually and they had these breakout groups that were like I think they were called lean in circles that a group had experimented with it. And I watched the group and they introduced themselves. And I think the majority of the women in the group, they were like the top of their apprentice class. Like all like all these accolades. And I thought, wow. And they even had issues on project sites. So I think even if you're like the star performer and a lot of women, like they think they have to be that star performer in order to even be on like an even keel on a project site. And that's, that's not great, you know, because amongst the men, there's some crappy ones, you know, on the project site and they still get the same paycheck or still get, you know, the opportunities for advancement. So I think there is strength in having groups that are geared towards women, because we do face unique challenges on the project site. Also, I think it's important for men to be, to really demonstrate how they're allies there's a lot of men that, that they're like, yeah, w women in the trades, we love it. It's like, okay, show us something. When something comes up, like stepping in there and say something, or if you're in a position to hire somebody or evaluate people for advancement, like make sure you're doing it fairly. And that you're taking all these things into consideration, make sure that you are removing barriers, you know, for someone to be retained by a company, if they, you know, have a family or have other barriers and they can't travel to that other job site, maybe there's an opportunity close to home. And it just takes a little creativity to find that. So I really I, I've been excited and energized by being in different groups that are just women focused, but I always now am making sure I don't miss the opportunity to call out the guys that have always said, like, you go like, keep going. It's like, well, come with me or go first and make the introduction and then, then we'll come in there. So that's, that's my takeaway.

 

Sherry Holmes (36:38):

You know what, you're right. You're absolutely right. I think women groups are very important because it's the support that you need without the intimidation or the anxiety that can sometimes come with both sex is talking about the same thing. But I also think that men need to need to step up and you're right. Sometimes some of the men on job sites, aren't on par with women, some are doing what they should be in making the paycheck. It is all about support at the end of the day. And I totally agree with you.

 

Abby Ferri (37:06):

Awesome.

 

Stephanie Hunter (37:07):

I have, I think everyone will be very, very excited about what both of you have shared very respectful of your time. Appreciate the insight you've had. I guess my last question would be, are there topics that I should have asked you that we didn't cover, that you would like to share?

 

Sherry Holmes (37:29):

You know, what a big one for me, and I'm only gonna say it. Cause it was something that I was terrified of when I was pregnant with my daughter. I thought I would lose my job. I would be fired. I couldn't do it. And I think that's a very, very big issue for women in the trades or in safety. It's sometimes you're traveling, it's hard work. You don't always have the attention span. You don't want your home life to suffer. And I did a speaking engagement in, I think it was, Oh my goodness, where was I? It might've been in Texas and I was seven months pregnant. And I asked all the women in the room, it was women in roofing. And I said, how many of you have children? And almost every single one of them raised their hands. And they're all working in roofing. Whether it be in the office on a construction site, in safety for roofing, anything, they all had children. I was like, okay, so we can do it. We just don't talk about it, what we need to do. And we are capable of it. It just seems like it would be harder work. So I think that's something that can be addressed a little bit more for women thinking, Oh, sorry, this Is my cat for women. Thinking about getting into the industry is you can be a mom and still do it.

 

Abby Ferri (38:43):

And a pet owner?

 

Abby Ferri (38:47):

That's awesome. Actually, one of my friends in safety, she just posted on LinkedIn today and I saw it right before this, her name is Camille Oaks and she posted a selfie from a couple of weeks ago where you can see she's pregnant. And she has her safety vest on. She has like a hair net and her, her hard hat. And she's like, see, we can do this. I honestly think she's seven months pregnant as well at the, at the time of the photo. And it made me think about a time I was about that pregnant to where you're, you're kind of big where people are like, what do we do about this? Do we even acknowledge that she's pregnant? Can we say anything? You know, cause sometimes the guys are scared to say something. So I would, I would break the ice. I would usually break the ice and be like, yes, I'm pregnant. And it's okay to acknowledge that now. But I remember I was working for an association at that time and was supposed to be doing job site visits for a like a safety excellence program. And people were terrified to invite me out to the job site, to do a sidewalk. And I had a couple of, you know, male allies that they're like, well, come on out, it's fine. You know, if you want, we can drive around on the cart. And I was starting to climb a ladder and that's when they told me, eh, maybe let's let's stay on the ground level. And that was confirmed by my doctor. So yeah, it just sometimes takes in an ally to be like, yeah, like this is fine. And then the other people on the project side are like, Oh, it's fine. Okay. You know, and when you're pregnant, it's like, I can be here until I'm delivering the baby practically.

 

Sherry Holmes (40:12):

So as long as you're taking the safety measure, the measurements that you have to and to, and taking care of yourself and the child, but yeah, we can totally do it. Yeah. We can do everything. Women are, women are superheroes. You're right.

 

Abby Ferri (40:24):

Heck yeah.

 

Stephanie Hunter (40:26):

So glad that you actually brought that up because a long, long time ago. So when I was pregnant with my first one, which would be in the early nineties I actually didn't tell anybody until I was six months pregnant. And so people thought I was just getting heavy. And so I think w I happily things have progressed a lot, but it's Jerry, to your point, people don't talk about it. So I'm glad that you raised it. It's like everybody would be doing that whole piece about work-life balance when there are moms who are, you know, moms, dads, but a lot of moms who are working and having to do homeschool and for their children and doing other pieces. So they're juggling a lot of other parts. I'm very glad and grateful that you brought that up. It is something that people will say, Oh yeah, we should be talking about that. The people aren't. So, no, unfortunately I think they will be now starting the conversation.

 

Abby Ferri (41:24):

I think the whole pandemic work from home thing too, has kind of helped with that conversation as well, because I welcomed seeing my coworkers, you know, their, their dog cat, like right on time kids, you know, because in the past I've been like going crazy with the mute buttons on the, on the zoom or on the phone or closing a door, you know, to quickly time so that nobody hears that there's anybody else in the background when it's like, well, that's not real life, you know? So I'm just happy that, you know, we're seeing more of people's humanity. And I think that that is good, you know, for safety, for really anything. It's, it's good for all of us to see that everyone's kind of dealing with things. We're all getting through some things where humans are not just working robots.

 

Stephanie Hunter (42:11):

Absolutely. That's that's perfect. Well, thank you very much for your time and your honesty, sharing your stories and weighing in on some important topics that I think a lot of people want to hear about. And hopefully this is a start of a series of other conversations that we can have with the, both of you and expanded some, to bring in other women to join us. And certainly some men as well.

 

 

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