30 SMART Women at Trades’ Conference 

  Below are larger excerpts from interviews with three SMART members who attended the Women Building the Nation Conference in 2015.   Ursela Lechelt, SM Local Union 55, Pasco, Washington “This was my first time at the conference and I will definitely be returning. It was a breath of fresh air knowing I’m not alone and that there are women like me working successfully in our industry. “I want women to know that it’s possible to succeed in construction, and right now I don’t think many women feel that way. I want to be known as someone who is able to encourage and support other women to get into our trade so they can experience the fulfillment of making a decent living for themselves and their families.”   Angela Molina, SM Local 104 San Francisco “I had no one to model, no one to lead—although my brothers tried the best they could with what they had. Can you imagine back then: installing a huge piece of ductwork in the machine room, and a young woman walks onto the jobsite with her bucket of tools and says, ‘What do you want me to do?” “It was a very big task for me as a woman, but it was probably an even bigger task for the co-worker who has never seen a woman on a job site before. At times it was a father-daughter relationship, other times journeyman-apprentice, and then there was the competitive brother-and-sister relationship.” “The message that I received from this conference was that—tough at times, it may be lonely out there—I am not alone. Networks of women are willing to mentor and coach. There is nothing like learning from someone else’s mistakes. “ “I am grateful for the overwhelming support available to women working in the trades—a thousand or more tradeswomen gathered to support and empower each other. I received an even stronger sense of union solidarity. Every woman I encountered held a burning desire to strengthen her union. “   Kate Hanson, SM Local 16, Portland “On Sunday morning I went to the Leadership 101 workshop and it was amazing. There was a panel of speakers: DJ Siegman (recording Secretary IBEW Local 617), Mary Lieser (VP Northern California Carpenters), Rita Magner (VP SM Local 104), and Christine Garrett (Compliance Officer IBEW Local 11). All four of these women had an opportunity to share about their experiences moving up through their careers and how they personally all became leaders. This was by far my favorite workshop of the weekend. Saturday afternoon there was a Caucus by Trade meeting. This was nice because I was able to meet 29 other women in the sheet metal industry from across the country. I was able to meet Rita Magner (VP of SM Local 104 out of San Ramon, CA). She was incredibly inspiring and it was great listening to how she’s moved up throughout her career. I also got to meet Chris Carlough (Director of Education for SMART). It was so great to have a man from our International participating in this conference.”