Don’t tell me it’s going to take more than one woman to create genderless jobs in America’s trade industries. Judaline Cassidy might change your mind. She’s a woman who decided a long time ago that the world was hers for the taking.
Cassidy founded Tools and Tiaras, a nonprofit organization in 2017. It’s dedicated to teaching women and girls about a career in the trades, and so much more. What’s equally impressive are the values and resilience that Cassidy teaches; lessons she’s discovered on her own journey to becoming a successful plumber. Not only does Cassidy show us what’s possible for creating genderless jobs, she’s laying a pipeline for rebuilding America’s long-term success.
As an immigrant Black woman, Cassidy fought many barriers just to be in the less than 2.5% of the female plumbers nationwide in the U.S. Working as a member of New York City Local Union No One, Cassidy is set on increasing that number as well as creating deeper support and greater opportunities for female friendships within the working environment.
This goal goes back to Cassidy’s hard work and determination to forge success. As the lone woman on most job sites, she struggled to cope as many women do in other male-dominated industries. Cassidy admits she’s endured sexual harassment and condescending treatment that might have broken her except that she kept her eye on the big picture. Cassidy is passionate about her work and the financial freedom of a well-paying job.
As the first woman in Plumbers Local Union 371 in Staten Island, New York and later, the first woman elected to the Examining board of Plumbers Local Union No One, Cassidy has built an impressive roadmap for women. Workshops and summer camps provide hands-on exposure to the broader construction industry, which includes mechanical, industrial, technical, and trades (MITT). This means girls have the chance to explore a wide range of jobs, from electrician to auto mechanic, to engineer or architect.
But what truly stands out are the program dynamics of teamwork and leadership. Intentional opportunities built around six core values teach the girls to work together, support each other and advocate for themselves. Cassidy understands the strength from daring to be different. She sees love and compassion as non-negotiable components of what it means to be human. These values build trust and support among the girls in the programs.
Cassidy also see opportunities to shape strong leaders by teaching the girls to be kind and clear about their intentions, having them inspire opportunities for everyone to shine and embracing change and discomfort, and always showing them the value of striving for the greater good. I can only imagine how these young leaders will change the world ten years from now.
It’s clear this inspired program comes from Cassidy’s personal experience. In high school, after her great grandmother passed away, Cassidy’s dream to attend law school was unaffordable. Shifting gears, Cassidy followed her natural affinity for workshop and technical drawing classes instead of cooking and stenography classes preferred by most girls not planning to attend college in her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago.
Cassidy understood, even then, that “if you don’t love it, don’t do it.” So Judaline continued her interest in technical classes, becoming one of the first three women to attend what is now the University of Trinidad and Tobago. When she moved to America, she was 19 and worked as a nanny and housekeeper doing whatever work she could get to earn enough to support her family. Living in a foreign country and trying to break into a trades career must have felt impossible for an immigrant, let alone a woman of color.
Despite these hurdles, Cassidy persisted with the help of a kind neighbor who encouraged her to keep applying. Eventually, Cassidy was accepted into the five-year apprenticeship program to become a plumber in New York. Judaline continues to love her work with the greatest respect and care for her fellow tradeswomen. Attracting advocates and sisters in the trades who are happy to mentor and share the history and importance of the trades seemed like a win-win for everyone.
“It’s important for girls to see themselves represented, and to see women respected and celebrated. It gives them something to work towards and to aspire to in becoming the next generation of leaders.”
For readers wondering about the name of Cassidy’s nonprofit, some detractors urged Cassidy not to use the word tiaras, thinking it might promote the wrong image. But Cassidy insisted she felt like a princess in a plumbing job because the work was steady and the money good.
Judaline Cassidy’s journey is transforming an industry where women are sorely under-represented. Her board of directors is filled with a diverse group of experienced, successful women from many fields including correctional services, the auto industry and architecture. It’s clear Cassidy is planning to take the program to new heights, even if it means building progress one student at a time.
In a world grappling with COVID, economic hardships and civil unrest, the importance of embracing diversity and change has never been more critical. We have an opportune time to rebuild systems that protect our health, our freedoms and our fundamental right to be treated equally. As a plumber, everything in Judaline Cassidy’s life has been about building a brighter future for herself and her family. As an American, she’s taken these values and shared them with the next generation of leaders who are learning, like Cassidy, that jobs don’t have genders.
To learn more about Judaline Cassidy or to send a girl to camp, visit her online at: https://www.toolsandtiaras.org
Follow Judaline on social media and listen to her podcast, Tradeswomen Talk.