According to research, women represent approximately 21.3% of the masonry industry population. While the industry at-large remains male-dominated, it's important to celebrate the many female leaders within the industry who are already making waves and breaking the status quo.
A great example is Casey Weisdock, director of industry development and technical services for the International Masonry Institute. Weisdock develops and promotes best practices for masonry construction, restoration, and preservation through education, resource generation, and technical assistance. She has earned the trust of her colleagues through her respectful work ethic, curious approach, and commitment to learning.
Ahead of International Women's Day, we sat down with Weisdock to discuss the challenges and rewards faced by women in masonry today, and how the industry as a whole can further support women and gender equality.
Q: What kind of work are you currently doing?
A: I work for the International Masonry Institute (IMI), a labor-management partnership that supports the industry at-large through education and developing resources, best practices, and codes and standards. We educate and provide as much information as needed so that more people utilize masonry in design and those installing materials are well-trained union craftworkers. We're really trying to tackle every aspect of the industry.
My background is in historic preservation, a more specialized aspect of the greater construction industry. I've moved into a broader role at IMI, but it's great because I can lean on my historic preservation expertise, which is what a lot of the education I provide surrounds.
Q:When did you first become interested in masonry? What attracted you to it?
A: Growing up, I was interested in architecture in general, specifically masonry architecture. My mom was really interested in architecture so I spent a lot of my free time going to historic sites and visiting historic buildings. And, many of the historic buildings I would see were made of masonry because it's a material that has the lasting power and lifespan that can withstand hundreds of years.
I also consider myself a maker or a craftsperson. My grandmother taught me how to sew and knit at a young age, so I've always been interested in arts and crafts. When I started studying historic preservation, I was able to combine my artistic background with my interest in architecture.
Q: What keeps you passionate about the job?
A: The biggest thing is that I'm always learning. My commitment to lifelong learning has really pushed me to remain engaged, because the construction industry and construction technologies are always evolving. For me, to continue to be an educator, I have to educate myself. Part of me loves to educate because it's essentially empowering others to achieve more in their lives; that's a piece that's really specific as to why I love the work that I do.
Q: What does it mean to be a female in masonry?
A: In general, being a woman in a male-dominated industry allows you to bring a unique perspective to the table and a new voice to the conversation. You also get to defy stereotypes and expectations. What that offers is that you get to forge your own path in a way that maybe is different from others in industries where the gender dynamic is more equal.
Q: What has your experience working in the industry been like so far?
A: Obviously, the masonry industry is still a male-dominated industry, like so many other industries. At the same time, I've felt my experience within the industry has been overwhelmingly positive. I'm not saying I expected anything different, but I didn't know what to expect.
I have been continuously met with respect. I really think it's all about mutually meeting people where they are, and also approaching others with a level of respect and curiosity, that has made it possible for others to do the same for me.
Q: What are some challenges that you have experienced and how did you overcome them?
A: I feel like it's more a general perspective of being a woman in a male-dominated industry; I feel pressure from myself to always give 100 percent and to also really know what I'm talking about. It's an exaggerated pressure to really do my due diligence so that when I do speak on something, I can gain that trust and respect. So, it does feel like there's less room for error.
I feel like more and more, women are coming into the masonry industry and trades. As more women come in, the fabric of the industry at-large is changing and because of that, it's becoming more supportive of women in many ways. Structurally, the industry is changing in ways that's more supportive and helpful, and meeting the needs of women.
Q: Have you seen any examples of how the industry has become more supportive of women?
A: As more women enter what was a male-dominated field, or a field that has evolved to meet men's needs, I think the masonry industry is now evolving to meet women's needs. For example, last year, the International Masonry Training and Education Foundation (IMTEF) introduced a paid maternity benefit to support pregnant women and new mothers represented by the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworks (BAC). In conjunction, IMI partnered with KinderCare Education to offer a childcare discount to BAC members, something that will support both working mothers and fathers. Those kinds of things have previously been a barrier to women who are considering pursuing a career in this industry. Those are things that are changing and making it more possible for women to invest in a career like this while also meeting their own needs.
Q: What are some tips or advice you have for young women interested in a career in masonry?
A: First, we need to remember to lift each other up. There's room for everybody. Secondly, find a mentor or team you can confide in. Utilize the support that is already there. Third, approach is really important. If you lead with respect, curiosity, and an open mind, then you typically receive that back; and if you don't, move on. For the most part, I think how you approach others often teaches others how to approach you. Lastly, it may seem trite, but don't be afraid to take up space and balance that with close listening.