Celebrating Women in the Trades throughout History

March 12, 2024

When most Americans think about women working outside the home, they likely think of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s.

And, when they consider women working in the skilled trades industry, their thoughts go to even more modern times.

But women have a long history in the trades and labor movements predating the 2000s or even the 1970s. Records show that women were hired to dig trenches in Spain as far back as the 13th century. And they likely worked in the trades long before then.

March is Women’s History Month. And the trades professionals at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning want to celebrate this month with a look back at women’s roles in the skilled trades.

Architects and Builders

If you’re a fan of HBO’s hit series, “The Gilded Age,” you may have followed the latest storyline about Emily Warren Roebling. Roebling is credited with helping design the Brooklyn Bridge. While the show is fiction, the subplot concerning Roebling is very much true.

Roebling’s father-in-law designed the bridge, and her husband, Washington Roebling, took over as chief engineer after his father passed away. But soon, Washington also fell ill and became bedridden.

That was when Emily sprung into action. She first served as a liaison between her husband and his aides. But as her husband’s health worsened, she took over the majority of the project management and became the chief engineer. She has been hailed as America’s first female engineer.

And who can forget Rosie the Riveter? The U.S. government designed this iconic mascot as a means to recruit women to work in factories and as builders and tradesmen. These filled the positions left open by men who had gone off to war.

Sadly, many women had to give up the jobs they loved when the men returned and were rehired back into these positions.

Female Apprentices

In 1975, after years of being shunned for apprenticeships in lucrative jobs like plumbing or HVAC and electrical repair, women formed the Women in Apprenticeship Program (WAP). WAP worked to help place women in apprenticeship programs, but they still faced an uphill battle.

It’s taken years of lawsuits, federal regulation and changing times for women to be accepted in all aspects of the skilled trades.

21st Century

These days, women have several resources to help them as they take jobs within the trades. Organizations like Women in HVACR and Women in Plumbing & Piping are there to support and empower women seeking a profession as a contractor or technician.

C & C’s very own general manager, Dayna Hottle, also helps mentor young women and girls who seek careers in the HVACR industry.

Right now, women only make up about 4% of the current skilled trades workforce, but with people like Emily, Rosie and Dayna to look up to, C & C hopes that more women join the ranks.

If you’re a woman looking for a career path, feel free to call C & C at (586) 439-3319 or review our careers page online to see if you’re a fit for one of our open positions.


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