By Mary Whitfill, The Patriot Ledger
QUINCY — When Ronnette Taylor first joined the Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 12 Boston, she was the only black woman in the union. She put up with harassment and was belittled by her male peers, she said, but now the 60-year-old business owner is encouraging other women to follow in her footsteps.
“Every girl, every woman, every person in here needs to have a trade,” she said Tuesday. “You can get a degree and that’s great, but a trade is something you’ll always have that you can use. It’s really important that we show them we can do it. I went through a lot to get here, but we can’t let them stop us.”
Taylor was one of a dozen women at Quincy High School on Tuesday morning who spoke to female students about jobs in the trades. The speakers encouraged students to break out of their comfort zones and not be afraid to enter fields that have been traditionally dominated by men, such as welding, electric work, plumbing and carpentry.
“I had no idea what an iron worker was. If someone told me it was the guys who sat on a skyscraper eating lunch, I would have run the other way,” Bridge Nee-Walsh, a welder, told students. “But believe it or not, heights grow on you.”
The Women in the Trades Summit was hosted as part of Quincy High’s push to bring more women into its career and vocational technical education programs. The students asked about equal pay, discrimination in the workplace, how the speakers have used their college degrees and what benefits, like maternity leave, are available to women in the trades.
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