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Women in Skilled Trades

This Plumber Is Breaking Down Barriers for Women to Work in Skilled Trades

Judaline Cassidy is passionate about her job. After working as a plumber for more than 20 years, she still looks forward to going to work each day.

“I really love plumbing,” the Trinidad native said. “It’s like a puzzle. The way my brain works, if I don’t know how to solve something, I exhaust everything, until I figure it out.”

Realizing her potential

Cassidy wanted to stand out in whatever career she pursued, and knew that working as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated trades industry presented an opportunity for her to do just that. From there, plumbing seemed like a logical choice.

“I figured if I do plumbing, I get wet, if I do electrical, I get shocked, so plumbing here I come,” she said with a laugh. 

Cassidy was one of the first three women selected to study plumbing at the John Donaldson Technical Institute of Trinidad, where she literally learned the tools of the trade. She later immigrated to the United States and was accepted into the New York City plumbers union’s five-year apprenticeship program. The move marked the beginning of a remarkable career.

Refusing the status quo

Honored to be part of a profession that’s crucial to maintaining public health and safety, Cassidy has forged a path for equality, after battling discrimination and sexual harassment. She recalls stepping out of her Jeep on the first day at a new job site.

 “All the men were looking at me,” she said. “You could see the laughs, and snickers, and disbelief on their faces.” 

Cassidy agreed to work for no pay that day if she couldn’t perform the work, knowing she was more than up to the task.

“That happens a lot,” Cassidy said. “Sometimes it breaks your spirit, like you’re not capable of the job, but I’ve continuously proved them wrong. All the years of excelling at my craft started taking away some of the objections.” 

Inspiring others

Cassidy was one of the first women accepted into Plumbers Local 371 in Staten Island, New York. She is equally proud to serve as president of the Croton Sisters of Plumbers Local 1 NYC. 

In 2017, Cassidy created the non-profit Tools & Tiaras, with the goal of mentoring young girls and women about pursuing unlikely trades, like construction and firefighting.

“Data shows that what we see, we become,” Cassidy said. “On television, in the movies, everywhere we look, nobody is depicting a tradeswoman like me. We’ve been put behind a wall and no one knows we exist. How can little girls want to be us if they don’t see any imagery of us?”

Knocking down stereotypes is what prompted Cassidy to host educational workshops for young girls.

“They’re so amazed by the tradeswomen we introduce them to, and they’re unstoppable,” she said. “We’re creating a squad of princess warriors who are going to change the world.”  

A sense of pride

With experience working on some of Manhattan’s most high-profile projects, including the U.N. building and the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, Cassidy feels connected to her surroundings.

“I can actually walk around the whole city and know it’s a living, breathing organism, because I’ve touched a lot of places in it,” she said.For women still somewhat intimidated, Cassidy offers this advice: “Jobs don’t have genders. You can do this. You will make a good living and join a league of superheroes, because not a lot of people do this.”

Cindy Riley, [email protected]

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