By Judaline Cassidy – Here’s the question men at a construction site never get: Are you qualified?

Women get asked this every day of every job. So, allow me to answer for all us: Hell, yes, we’re qualified.

We attended the same apprenticeship programs, passed the same tests and perform the same job-related tasks as well as men do – and often better.

So, if you want to know how it feels to be a woman in construction – particularly, a black woman – then know this: Walking in my boots is both overwhelming (it can feel as if the air is being taken away from me on every step) and exhilarating (as I keep climbing in the industry, I plant my flag of success as if I’ve climbed Mt. Everest).

The passion and love I have for my craft is sometimes the painkiller that makes all the agony go away until another day. I joke that the relationship I have with the construction trade is like that of a marriage where one person cooks, cleans and performs various tasks but never gets the credit.

It’s difficult. Always having people doubt your capabilities and passion is hard. Knowing the opportunity for advancement isn’t as readily available to you, is harder still. Then there’s this: If you push for it, you are talked about, called a “troublemaker.”

Not that it matters in the end. Women, it seems, are the first to get let go when the layoffs begin. And they’ll get so many reasons except the truth: It’s because you are a woman.

If you walk in my boots, you’ll see that life is different for me. And you won’t see many of me. 

When I look around at job sites, I’m deeply saddened that there’s no visible representation of me, a black woman, in leadership roles. So, I lace up my boots, right then left, and go to work, head held high like Rosa Parks and Angela Davis. I tell myself that someday my hard work will be recognized, and I’ll get promoted.

Am I qualified? You better believe I am. 

Here’s the question I’d like to ask men at a job site: Are YOU qualified to walk in MY boots?

What You Should Know About Judaline Cassidy

Judaline Cassidy construction

A native of the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Judaline has been a proud plumber for over two decades. A member of Plumbers Local Union No. 1 NYC, Judaline has made history while mastering her craft. In addition to being one of the first women accepted into Plumbers Local 371 Staten Island, NY, she was the first woman elected to the Examining Board of Plumbers Local No. 1. Judaline also helped usher in the first Women’s Committee within her Union and became the Committee’s first President.

Driven by her personal mission to inspire more women and girls to become skilled professionals, in June 2017 Judaline founded Tools & Tiaras, a nonprofit that exposes young girls and women to the design and skilled trades in the construction industry. Her organization does this through guided mentoring and hands-on projects in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and automotive at their summer camps, conferences, and careers workshops. *** Donate here to support their important work. ***

Through her tireless activism, Judaline has inspired several platforms to develop programs for women in the trades. Most notably, she is the Founder of Lean In: Women In Trades, a group she fought to make reality so tradeswomen can share information and learn from one another.

Judaline’s dedication to equality and justice extends beyond her own industry; she brings her powerful voice and passion to social issues that affect women and girls. This has led to her newest role as a sought-after speaker who captivates, motivates and inspires by simply being Judaline – relatable, approachable, genuine and hilarious.

In November 2019, Judaline’s status as a fearless trailblazer was cemented on the cover and in the pages of Amy Richards’ new book, Make Your Mark: A Journal for Capturing Big Dreams, where she’s featured alongside Misty Copeland, Shonda Rhimes, Reshma Saujani, Gloria Steinem, Lena Waithe and others.