More Female Employees Breaking Down Barriers In Construction Industry

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Women are quickly changing the meaning of the phrase “homemaker.” A number of women are now building apartments and breaking down barriers in the process.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Friday where crews are piecing together a modular high-rise. If you look closely, you’ll find many of women on the job, Hsu reported.

Odyssey Reyes is a carpenter and recent graduate of a skills program.

“You definitely have to have tough skin because you’re going to have some men that they generally do want to work with you,” she said, “and you’re going to have some men who are old school.”

There are 160 employees at the factory and about 40 new recruits have been hired since January.

Seventeen percent of the new hires are women, compared to 9 percent of women in building industry jobs in 2013.

Real estate development company Forest City Ratner has partnered with several community workforce programs to hire more women.

Rita Walsh, a foreman, has been in construction for 20 years.

“I love construction. I worked in an office for 15 years, I would never go back,” she said.

Walsh had worked in customer service and said her male counterpart was making $2 more an hour.

“If you get into construction, whatever your title is no matter if you’re male or female, you’re making that money,” she said.

“So starting salary for entry level starts at $17 and it ranges up there depending on your level,” Liz Canela with Forest City Ratner said.

Someone at the top level, such as a foreman, can make nearly $40 an hour.

Josephine Morales is a carpenter and said her construction shotgun is her best friend.

“That’s the DX-460, you could shoot up to 10 pins at one time without having to reload,” she said of the gun.

Morales has been working construction for 10 years and said it’s great having more women on the job.

“The guys aren’t that bad, you can handle them,” she said. “How many women can say, ‘Oh I could build that house?’ I say go for it!”

For anyone interested in learning about jobs at the site, contact the Brooklyn Navy Yard Employment Center.

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