The Rising Tide Lifting Women into Leadership
The Rising Tide Resume Project, a project of Local 3 IBEW's Amber Light Society, is training union tradeswomen for leadership roles
Sally McKleinfeld has been helping female friends with their résumés for years. Now she’s developed a program to help even more women within New York Local 3.
The Rising Tide Résumé Project is the latest effort from Local 3’s women’s club, the Amber Light Society, to help its sisters create professional résumés for leadership positions within the construction industry. McKleinfeld works with Club President Michele Betancourt-Maldonado to recruit interested women for the free service.
“I want to do what I can to make better use of our talents, get us the money we're worth and bring vigor to our local by turning experienced female members into supervisors,” McKleinfeld said. “The industry needs us.”
Women only make up about 3 percent of construction workers nationally, with an even lower number occupying supervisory positions like foreman or contractor. The résumé project is designed to increase that number by helping women not only create a solid résumé but realize that they do in fact have the skills to apply for higher-level roles, including owning their own companies.
“I learned that I knew and had done more than I had initially thought," said Local 3 member and project graduate Katia Ruiz, who participated in the program in 2018 . “I had way more experience than I gave myself credit for.”
McKleinfeld notes that a lot of women come into the trades after careers in other industries, and that a lot of the skills they learned can be applied to construction supervision. Extra-curricular activities like organizing a breast cancer walk, running the PTA or being the treasurer of a community group can also be beneficial.
“All of the office skills, all of the people skills, all of the inventory and recordkeeping skills, all of that is really important,” McKleinfeld said.
Pulling out all of that experience is something McKleinfeld really enjoys, she said. The process entails sending her sisters a long list of questions designed to help them write down as much as possible. After that, they have a phone call, usually about an hour long, where McKleinfeld gleans more details.
“This is where I shine,” McKleinfeld said. “I love putting together the full picture of someone as a worker. You have to know their style and substance in order to describe them in a brief and compelling way. Are they a self-starter? Are they detail-oriented? You have to paint the picture of the person behind the page.”
The program began in 2017. Since then McKleinfeld said 13 sisters have completed the program, and eight have been successful in getting the positions they wanted. One is the first forewoman of color at the Jacob K. Javits Center, New York’s 1.8 million square foot convention center.
“It's been heartwarming doing this work because many of the sisters' reaction has been, ‘Really? You're doing all this for me? You think I can do this?’ And my response is, ‘You're already doing the work, you should be formally recognized for it,’” McKleinfeld said.
The project may spread to other trades as well. McKleinfeld says she’s talking to sisters with IATSE, the Plumbers and the Carpenters to help them develop their own projects.
For Ruiz, the project helped her become a forewoman. It also gave her something more intangible, but perhaps just as worthwhile.
“When I have those moments of impostor syndrome, I look back at my résumé and think about all the things I’ve done,” Ruiz said. “It’s really empowering.”