NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More and more women are shattering the glass ceiling and making their mark in the male dominated construction industry.

“Times are changing. It’s not just a man’s world anymore,” Tanay Matthews, of Brooklyn, told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

Matthews works construction with Local 361.

“I love it, honestly. It’s tough, it’s physically draining, but every day I wake up and I give it my all,” she said.

She said she’s typically the only woman on site.

“I work with about 30 men now. My last job might have been 200,” she said.

According to the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York City, women make up just four percent of the construction unions workforce. But as Matthews said, times are changing.

“Work needs to be done to continue to get the word out to women and young girls that yes, you can do this, this is a career for you,” said Kathleen Culhane, president of Non-Traditional Employment for Women, or NEW.

NEW offers a two-month pre-apprenticeship training program for women of New York City, many of them unemployed or underemployed women of color.

“It’s booming now. I’m so confident now that I’m going to be great, my family is going to be great,” said Shanique Latimer, who’s finishing up her training at NEW.

“My last job I worked at the World Trade Center and I’ve seen all these women – construction women – walking back and forth and they have like this pride on their face, and I wanted that for myself,” Tshura Williams added.

Now, she has the tools.

Landing a spot in a union apprenticeship just became more likely for these women. Since 2005, 10 percent of union apprenticeships were set aside for NEW graduates.

“We’ve just increased that, set aside by 50 percent,” said Culhane.

Now, 15 percent of apprenticeships will be set aside, increasing the total number from 150 to about 225.

“Really amazing for the women of New York City,” Culhane said.

With each new opportunity, the city is one step closer to making the non-traditional career of construction traditional for women. And why not.

“As a female, we can do it!” said Latimer.

Union construction jobs offer excellent benefits and a lot of room for career growth. While apprentice wages average about $18 an hour, in a few years, that could skyrocket to as much as $60 an hour.

Comments (31)
  1. Anna Gadler Pratt says:

    My daughter is in the final year of her apprenticeship with a local in Manhattan as an operating engineer. She attended the program spoken about in this news report. She does NOT stand around holding signs, She lifts, carries, drives, repairs, and does more physical work in half a day than most anyone I know. Her foremen are pleased with her performance and she has earned the respect of the men on her work sites because she gets the job done.

    Don’t generalize with archaic stereotypes about women in the work force. Some can’t make the grade despite their best efforts. But, it’s important to acknowledge that is true for men as well..

    Women like my daughter are living proof that determination, grit , attitude and training are components that enable to become vital members of the construction work force.

    Good luck to all.

  2. Clifford Farris says:

    Why do we people even bother to read stories from New York? Women are fine if they can do the job, and we people accept them. This is not a story, except in the mind of some Manhattan type.

  3. Jack Carter says:

    There’s a huge all-female construction company in my town.I’m pretty sure they’re all lesbians and feminist. They never use studs…’s all tongue-and-groove.

  4. Jewell Lundgren says:

    Women getting in to construction better learn Mexican. Men who can’t speak Mexican can’t be hired. The excuse is: in case of an emergency, they would not understand what was going on/

    1. Christopher Perrien says:

      What I was thinking. Also they become physically disabled or faster than men , so anyone hiring them is walking into paying for that too, Guess the Unions have figured out how to get kickbacks off that. The military hasn’t but they quickly will soon too. So we can all pay a larger percentage of female soldiers disablilty with 10 years in or less or what ever. They aint designed for heavy lifting and smaller frames get damaged faster. Just the way it is, and studies prove it, there was a recent Army one that did just this.

  5. When you see a highway construction project the only job I see women doing is holding the caution sign.

    1. Honest just today I saw a utility 2mpersin crew. She was pointing and leaning on a shovel. He was you guessed it down in a mud hole digging!

    2. Dorothy Cohen says:

      Oh, is Steven thinking he’s better than the little woman? Hate to tell you, but women are just as good as men at construction. My daughter’s best friend got a construction engineering management degree and she’s project manager on a huge project in Boston. The best part? Men like you have to call her boss.

      1. Erica Reinhardt says:

        Yeah! Management! She sure as hell isn’t doing pick-and-shovel work, anything involving heavy lifting, or dangerous jobs like high steel work. Over 95% of women have less upper body strength than the AVERAGE man.(Do an internet search on the subject if you don’t believe me.) This means that almost all women are unsuited for all but the least demanding forms of “grunt work” in construction. And my observation has been that women are good at begging off the dirtier and more dangerous jobs, just like female sailors so often manage to get pregnant just before a long-term or war time deployment.

      2. Dave Miller says:

        That’s Management and not the nitty gritty of construction!

  6. Denise Pharmer says:


  7. Louis Christian says:

    A joke and another movement to alienate western men. I was in the Sea Bees, ( Navy Construction.) It took two women to push a half filled wheel barrow, two women to carry one plank, while one man could push an over filled wheel barrow and carry two planks by themselves. Women don’t belong in jobs that require physicality. There is ALWAYS a man that can perform better. This goes for Construction, Police, Fire fighting and Combat and other physical roles in the military like th above for mentioned jobs.

  8. Ann Mitchell says:

    1980 I was a construction worker. I am a female. It provided a great income and I traveled also. Once tired traveling, I went to work for a electric utility company. I’m earning a pension from a fortune 500 company now. As someone else said, there are good and bad male and female workers. Its not for everyone but it definitely provided a great income and retirement.

  9. Larry Mulvaney says:

    I worked as a rough and finish carpenter in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, located in San Diego, CA. Over time, I saw Mexican license plates on the job sites, with wages decreasing. I asked the foremen on the job sites if they checked their ID’s, and he said they checked out. I know they were using forged social security cards to obtain ID cards because they would have 10 guys framing a house that 3 of us Anglo’s could frame in the same time. They didn’t speak a lick of English either. Long story short, I had to find a new career because of illegal immigration! I say the Democrat Party is DESTROYING this country!
    I’m all for women in construction as long as they can lift as much as a man.

  10. They can have them. Thanks to unchecked illegal immigration they barley pay over minimum wage in most states.

  11. The last woman-built thing I recall being of note was the bridge in Miami that collapsed.

  12. Darren Davis says:

    Non story intended to show that men are no longer needed. As a general rule 99% of women do not want a construction job.

  13. I think it great. My wife was a construction project manager for a very large general contractor for years. One face, modern construction has become a lot less physically demending as it was before automatic nail guns, chop saws on site, less expensive cranes and lifts.

  14. Big Mama says:

    Screw that.. American Men are dying younger..suicide rates up and 80,000 opioid deaths yearly..over depression of not being able to get jobs..Women get home and take care of a hard working husband

  15. Laurence Almond says:

    Soon there will be no human ceiling for robots in the construction industry.

  16. Nick Summy says:

    This has to be a joke. The women in this video aren’t doing anything close to resembling construction work. This looks like a junior high shop class. Don’t get me wrong, I think its great that these women are applying themselves, but lets be real, women aren’t “breaking” into construction. This isn’t some glamorous job that has been excluding females and minorities because of social perception.

  17. Chris Kramer says:

    So, women will start taking their share of the 95/94% male job death/serious injury rate? Finally! Enough of this eekwalitee BS!

    It can’t reasonably be called “a man’s world” when men build the world so women can have comfort, safety and CHOICE.

  18. Watch feminists suddenly care about safety when women start getting killed or injured on construction jobs, the way men have for, oh, ten thousand years.

  19. Kevin Bearly says:

    The men will have to wear masks to protect themselves from the toxic estrogen emissions.

  20. Oh great, buildings made with feelings should be great

  21. Alan Neidermeyer says:

    In most cases the woman will quit as soon as the men stop doing her work for her. Very common in manufacturing and warehouses for a lady to not make it through their first day because they are physically incapable of doing the work.

    1. Philip Adams says:

      Most new construction workers in general quit in the first few days. There are also lots of good talented women out there, and plenty of sorry men.

      I used to work plumbing and had a female partner – she was way better than any male partner I had.

  22. They still won’t touch roughneck work

  23. women coming into the field could cut wages i half

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