No Barriers Podcast Episode 117: Meet Feminist Plumber, Judaline Cassidy

about the episode

Erik and our guest host, Tom Lillig, chat with self-proclaimed, Feminist Plumber, Judaline Cassidy on her barrier-breaking career journey. Special thanks to Prudential for sponsoring today’s episode.

Judaline Cassidy hails from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Having experienced, first-hand, the challenges and injustices women working in male-dominated fields face, Judaline has devoted her life and work to being a force of change.

By day, she’s a history-making plumber in NYC, where she’s mastered her trade over the last two decades while fighting for equality in the construction industry. She dedicates every other waking second to her trademarked “Jobs Don’t Have Genders” activism, and to Tools & Tiaras Inc., the pioneering nonprofit she founded in 2017.

Through hands-on, mentoring workshops and summer camps led by tradeswomen leaders, her organization introduces girls and young women to skilled trades jobs like electrician, carpenter, plumber, and auto mechanic. Girls gain awareness of these rewarding and lucrative career options, along with invaluable life skills. Ultimately, Judaline is empowering girls with the grit, moxie, and self-confidence needed to succeed in whatever professional path they choose. A powerhouse role model, captivating speaker, founder of Lean In: Women In Trades, and recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, Judaline’s ability to inspire crosses generations and genders, and the impact she makes extends to her industry and beyond. Judaline was recently featured as one of CNN’s 2020 ‘Champions For Change’.

Thank you to our sponsor, Prudential, for sponsoring this episode and more featuring alchemists like Judaline.


Watch Judaline on CNN’s 2020 ‘Champions For Change.’

Watch Tools & Tiaras 2018 Girls Camp video

Judaline’s website: https://www.judaline.com/

Follow Judaline on IG, FB, and TwitterSpecial thanks to Prudential for sponsoring today’s episode.

Judaline Cassidy hails from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Having experienced, first-hand, the challenges and injustices women working in male-dominated fields face, Judaline has devoted her life and work to being a force of change.

By day, she’s a history-making plumber in NYC, where she’s mastered her trade over the last two decades while fighting for equality in the construction industry. She dedicates every other waking second to her trademarked “Jobs Don’t Have Genders” activism, and to Tools & Tiaras Inc., the pioneering nonprofit she founded in 2017.

Through hands-on, mentoring workshops and summer camps led by tradeswomen leaders, her organization introduces girls and young women to skilled trades jobs like electrician, carpenter, plumber, and auto mechanic. Girls gain awareness of these rewarding and lucrative career options, along with invaluable life skills. Ultimately, Judaline is empowering girls with the grit, moxie, and self-confidence needed to succeed in whatever professional path they choose. A powerhouse role model, captivating speaker, founder of Lean In: Women In Trades, and recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, Judaline’s ability to inspire crosses generations and genders, and the impact she makes extends to her industry and beyond. Judaline was recently featured as one of CNN’s 2020 ‘Champions For Change’.

Thank you to our sponsor, Prudential, for sponsoring this episode and more featuring alchemists like Judaline.


Watch Judaline on CNN’s 2020 ‘Champions For Change.’

Watch Tools & Tiaras 2018 Girls Camp video

Judaline’s website: https://www.judaline.com/

Follow Judaline on IG, FB, and Twitter

Episode Transcript

We are honored that Prudential is sponsoring today's podcast. Highlighting people who are true alchemists.

I'm succeeding, and I saw women coming on the job being plumbers and then dropping out. I figured if since 1970 the amount of women in construction has been three percent, how can I change that? I figured it we educated kids younger and let girls know younger that this is an option, wow. How could it change the industry?

It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Eric Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, climb the tallest mountain in every continent, the Kayak, the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal element that exists along the way. That unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call no barriers.

Hi, I'm Tom Lillig, Board President of No Barriers. Today on the podcast, Eric and I have none other than the feminist plumber, the founder of Tools and Tiaras, and the ultimate barrier breaker, Judaline Cassidy. Judaline hails from the Twin Islands of Trinidad and Tobago. She is a woman everyone should know and one of CNN's Champions for Change. Having experienced firsthand the challenges and injustices women working in male dominated fields face, Judaline has devoted her life and work to being a force for change. By day, she's a history making plumber in New York City, where she's mastered her trade for the last two decades while fighting for equality in the construction industry.

She dedicates every other waking second to her trademarked jobs don't have gender activism, and to Tools and Tiaras, the pioneering nonprofit she founded in 2017. Through hands on mentoring workshops and summer camp led by tradeswomen leaders, her organization introduces girls and young women to skilled trades like electricians, carpenters, and auto mechanics. Girls gain awareness in these rewarding and lucrative career options, along with getting invaluable life skills. Ultimately, Judaline is empowering girls with grit, moxie, and self-confidence. Those skills needed to succeed in whatever professional path they choose. A powerhouse role model, captivating speaker, and founder of Lean In Women In Trades, Judaline is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. Her ability to inspire crosses generations and genders. The impact she makes stands beyond her industry. Here is our wonderful, hilarious, enjoyable conversation with Judaline.

Hey, everyone. Welcome to our No Barriers podcast. Thanks Tom for joining and cohosting. Judaline, we are super excited to have you onboard today.

I am so excited to be here because I looked at the website and I love the whole No Barriers. It's right up my philosophy, so thank you for having me.

Oh my God, you are a living testament of No Barriers for sure. We were just laughing earlier about being a feminist plumber, right? You were explaining sort of the origins of that.

Yeah. A lot of people always say, "What is a feminist plumber?" My response? A female plumber. That's it, that's all it is.

You have to be a feminist if you're going to be a female plumber, right?

Right, should be. But I think it's such a cool title. I think it always beckons a question because people think there is so much more depth to it than me just saying, "A female plumber."

Yeah. I was just saying, I love that you have taken this beyond just yourself. It's not just about Judaline. It's about you being an activist. An activist where jobs don't have genders, an expression that you trademarked and that you use, which I love. This is a message that our society needs more of right now. It's great that you are the living, breathing embodiment of that. Maybe if you could, just tell us how your story came to be.

I'll pretend like it's a movie. My movie starts in the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

By the way, it should be a movie. You were talking about that in one of your articles. I'm seriously no joke waiting for Judaline the Plumber.

Right? Thank you.

On Netflix.

On Netflix, yeah. Because then people can watch, binge watch like I do, all the episodes.

Yeah. You were starting with Trinidad, Tobago.

Yes. It started at the beautiful twin islands.

The beautiful twin islands.

Yes. Filled with music, food, and renowned for [inaudible 00:05:48]


It started there. I grew up with my great great grandmother, because my mother didn't have the means to take care of me. I attended secondary school and in secondary school, I was studying. My vision of what I wanted to be was Wonder Woman and a lawyer. That didn't happen. She passed away. When she passed away, I couldn't afford to attend university. Trinidad and Tobago was owned by the queen. Our system of education is primary school, secondary school, and then university, which you have to pay for. The other two are free, but the next level, university, you had to pay for.

I didn't have the financial means to attend it, so I figured I can learn a trade, which was a free education. I strategically thought about what a lot of women would be applying for in that particular trade school. Culinary arts, secretary, tailoring, seamstress, stuff like that. I strategically decided to try for the things that the boys would be doing. I had a choice of plumbing or electrical. I know it's going to sound shocking, but this is how I chose this path. I said, "Electrical, you get shocked. Plumbing, you get wet. Plumbing here I come."

Yeah, because you're surrounded by water. So yeah, that's perfect. That makes perfect sense.

See, you're the first person to really get it.

Wonder Woman is already taken by the way. There's no Netflix. That show has already been done.

Exactly, so that's why-

You're thinking about your future TV career too, I'm sure.

Yes, definitely. That's why I chose it. I started, I went to that school. I was one of the first three women that they took to actually allow us to do that program. Then I got married really, really young. Shouldn't do that. We migrated to the United States of America. When I came here, I didn't get back into plumbing right away. I actually was a babysitter, a nanny, a housekeeper, and a personal shopper also before I got back into plumbing.

I remember you mentioning somewhere in one of your interviews that you're four foot 11?

And seven eight. Don't rob me of the seven eight.


I mean, come on. That's what I'm working with. Don't steal that away from me. Yeah, four foot 11 and seven eight.

Well, first I have this image of four foot 11 and seven eight inches walking into a plumbing, a construction site around a bunch of guys. But we'll get to that later. What gave you the gumption then? I'm curious, I guess it's what, heredity or environment. You know what I mean? Was that just in you to want to be one of three women who joined the plumbing program? Or was it something your parents taught you, your community? What do you think?

I would say part of it was because when I was in secondary school and we had typing and home economics, those classes, I literally got kicked out of those classes. I was always with the boys. I was always with the boys. I was with the boys and they put me in technical drawing. I think that kind of set the scene probably that I can do this, because I was just comfortable in that space. I didn't feel like I was going to walk into a space where I was uncomfortable because I was always with the guys. It's so irritating even now. The guys say, "You're one of the guys." I have to remind them, "No, I am still a female." I think that's what it is. The fact that I was already comfortable, so it didn't seem foreign to me that I could be in a class with boys.

Your story picks up in America.


Tell me how you decide. I know you chose plumbing because it's water, right? But how did you get good at it?


It probably takes a lot of hands on training, almost like an apprenticeship. Is that-

You discover you love it too, right Tom? You love it.


So, what do you love about it?

I fell in love with it back in Trinidad once I was able to do it. I am in love with plumbing. I truly believe plumbing is the only committed relationship besides coffee that I'm in. I fell in love with it and I'm still madly in love with plumbing, I really am. People all the time think because I started the nonprofit, that I should leave and be the executive director of blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Write emails, da da da, fa la la. That's not me. I love being with my tools. Once I fell in love with it, like I said, my path took me to be a housekeeper and be a nanny, which I loved. I loved being a housekeeper and a nanny. I'm good at it.

Growing up in the church, there was always a seminary member, Joseph, my grandma always told us. Just remembering Joseph being a slave. No matter what station he had in life, he was good at it. I kind of grew up with that philosophy. No matter what I'm doing, just be good at it. I was those two things. My neighbor, who lived next door to me in Statin Island, remembered that I went to school for plumbing. A little back story. In the '90s, the '80s and the '90s, black people had a hard time getting jobs in construction sites. They formed something called coalitions where they would go on job sites and demand work, because buildings were being built in their neighborhoods.

Everybody that was there was white. They wasn't represented. They would form coalitions and go on the job site and demand jobs. I believe that the guy who was my neighbor, he was the head of one of the coalitions. He told them that he had a plumber, but he left out a really huge part, that I was a woman. I pulled up on the job site and when I pulled up on the job site, anybody who knows me knows I drive a four by four. My seat is usually jacked all the way up. On top of that, it gets better, I still have a cushion. So, I look really tall. I pulled up to the job site, like you said. I drive up in my red Jeep and I pull up, and I see that all the eyes are on me. I press the button and it's going down. I can see all the guys' faces are changing on this construction site.

Everybody's face is changing. I press the button, I go down. I come out, I introduce myself. I'm walking down and everybody is shaking their heads and laughing. I get up to the foreman, Jimmy [Nanzio 00:13:00]. God bless his soul. I said, "I am Judaline, the plumber." He said, "Get the eff out of here. There's no way you can be the plumber." I said to him, because I wanted to be a lawyer, I negotiated. I said, "Let's do this. What if I work today and I suck at it? You don't have to pay me. If I work out, then you just have the cutest plumber there is." He took me up on my offer. No seriously, he took me up on my offer. He couldn't believe that I actually knew the fit ins, knew the pipes, knew the measure. I busted my A-double-S that day. The company hired me as the first woman to do plumbing and heating in Statin Island, New York. That's how it kind of began.

Then I tried to get into the union, which was another barrier. I'm going to feel your words, barrier. I tried to get into the union. After working with them for a year, they sent... in plumbing and construction, there's a term called being green, meaning you don't know anything. For a year, they keep you. See if you come to work every single day. You're working hard. The mechanic or the gentleman likes you. They send you down to the union to become part of the union. I go down with my brothers and all of them, the union took them, accepted them. Me, the guy looks at me, Mr. [Kemp 00:14:27]. He looks at me and he said, "There's no way you can be..." He says, "You better go home and do dishes."

Oh my goodness.

Don't say that. That was 20 something years ago.


I just aged myself, but that was like 20 something years ago. I went in my car back in my Jeep and I cried. I didn't cry in front of him. I went home and sucked it up. I said, "Okay, what are you going to do? Are you going to go back and do plumbing? Of course, because you love it. You're making good money." I went back on the job site and I kept working. This amazing superhero, that's what I call him, Bryan [Tutora 00:15:07], he spoke up. He came to me and he said, "Do you want to get in the union?" I was like, "Hell yeah." He said, "Okay, I'll talk to someone." Then he spoke to someone that spoke to someone that spoke to someone and another someone. I got into the union and became one of the first women in the plumber's local union in Statin Island.

That's great.


You were barrier breaking way back then. Then at some point in time, you went through this shift where you decided, I now am doing what I love. But I need to now break down some walls and allow other people, build some ramps so other young women can get into this field. Tell me about what motivated you to become this activist.

I think what motivated me a lot is that I found success in the job. I found a place where I had so many brothers and sisters from different parts of the world and different cultures. I was like, "I'm succeeding." I saw women come in on the job being plumbers and then dropping out. I figured if since 1970 the amount of women, this is no joke, since 1970, in construction has been three percent. How can I change that? I'm dyslexic and I love solving puzzles. For me, everything is always, what's the solution? I figured if we educated kids younger and let girls know younger that this is an option, wow. How could it change the industry? Because the problem is not that we're not attracting women right now. The women come in and I guess the times that they come in, being later in life, a lot of them drop out. I just wanted to start with the girls and see what effect I can have by starting with the girls. That's kind of what my mission became, starting with the girls.

Yeah, and then that led to Tools and Tiaras, right?


That's your organization. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

At Tools and Tiaras, we really teach girls that jobs don't have genders. I want them to embrace that so that they can live their life having no barriers. We definitely teach them that. What we do is we have three monthly workshops where girls come and learn plumbing, electrical, engineering, robotics, iron working, carpentry, auto mechanics. Anything you can think of that you can put a tool in the girl's hand, that's what we do. Then we take it up a notch. In the summer camp, we have an all girls summer camps where we get to do those things for a whole week. Then the last day, we take them to a real working construction site. Literally all week, they learn about plumbing. They learn stuff like that. Then we take them to a construction site and say, "All the things you've been learning, this is where you'll end up." They learn architecture. Not only do we give them physical tools, we also give them additional tools. We teach them finances. We teach them meditation and yoga, self defense. A whole bunch of stuff.



The whole package, yeah.

They're warriors. They are warriors. I call them princess warriors. A warrior needs to have a full arsenal at her disposal, so that's what we do with the girls.

Was there a huge demand right from the beginning, or did you have to recruit?

Huge demand. I am really shocked. Right away I thought, this is my little thing. I'll have four or five girls come into this. But every year, we only take 20 girls for our in person camp because of safety reasons. Right away we had girls. Tools and Tiaras, we don't have a lot of money. But social media has been really good to us in the sense of once we post it, parents and people just share it. They just keep sharing and sharing. We have people sign up really fast. Sometimes we have to shut it down.

Going back, you mentioned that obviously you loved this industry because it's like a puzzle, right? It's problem solving.


It's like a jigsaw puzzle. I'm still laughing at your committed relationship between plumbing and coffee.


The two are very related by the way. But what I'm curious about is the fear side, because you mentioned going to the construction site with the girls. I immediately felt intimidated because when I try to do mechanical things like fix a bike or something, I just think well, I'm going to break it worse. Then I usually wind up bleeding a little bit or a lot. There's sort of like this barrier to entry where in the beginning, you're just so intimidated that you're going to screw things up so bad and make the problem worse. There's a whole mechanical literacy that I think people have lost, if I can generalize.


Is that a big barrier for girls that maybe-



No, I think what it is, what I show the girls, as much as I am the world's feminist plumber and self proclaimed best plumber, I show them that I make mistakes. What I love about the trade is the fact that you are going to make mistakes. Every toilet bowl, faucet, blueprint that we get, everything is always different. You're going to make mistakes. The key is, how are you going to rise faster? That's what we teach the girls because sometimes they struggle and they can't get the thing.

I say, "That's okay. That's okay. Even Ms. Judaline messes up. Look at, didn't I just do this incorrectly?" I'm vulnerable and I show them that you definitely are going to make mistakes, but it's okay. What do you do after that? Now, you can fix it. Sometimes we put things in long, but it's fixing it is what's important. I think once we let them know that it's okay to make mistakes, they get it. I think that's what a lot of people miss about mechanical stuff. I still experience the same thing you do when I decide to throw the Ikea furniture or something like that. I put it wrong. I bleed. I miss screws, and then I got to start from scratch again, but that's okay. That's part of learning because now they learn the way, not to do it that way. That's how I learned with Brian and Neil and all the plumbers who taught me. I made mistakes.


A lot of mistakes.

But they have to give you a chance to make mistakes.


Because this happens with blindness too where sometimes it's like, "I have low expectations."


They don't say, "I have low expectations." They don't say that out loud, but really I think that's what it comes down to. I have low expectations for you, so therefore I'm just going to do it myself. You go hold the cloth. You know what I mean? You must have had that cycle, right? Where you're like, "Just give me a chance to make a mistake and get started in this."

Yeah, so that happens to a lot of women in trade. People automatically assume that you won't be able to do whatever it is. Sometimes they don't give you a chance, but you have to make your own breaks. What I did was, when I was with certain guys, after I met Brian or somebody I was working with would give me a chance. They would try to send me to keep getting material. They would be like, "Oh, I forgot. We need four elbows." I would have to go get them because I am the apprentice.


What I would do is, I would go get it, but I would bring back eight. But just only give them the four that they asked for because I know what's coming next. "I'm so sorry. Could you go get four more?" I'm like, "You're a fool. Here you are. Here you is."

Yeah, we're talking about street smarts. Knowing how to operate in these situations, right?



I also loved, I heard and saw in one of your videos about how it was hard to get a chance to actually prove yourself. You would wait until some of the guys would go to the bathroom. Then you'd be like, "Now is my time. I'm going to show my capability."

Yes, I was about to say it. That was the best one because they assured that I didn't know. When they left, I did start it. I think that also made them give me respect that I wasn't waiting on them to teach my everything. I was going to solve it myself and figure it out. They're like, "Okay, I guess you're ready." I'm like, "Yeah, I'm ready." That was one way there.

Were some impressed by that, but were some threatened by that? I come back from the bathroom and she's fixed it. I don't like that. She just took my power away.

I agree with you. Some of them didn't like it, but what I did was I did my oblivious like I didn't even notice. That's what I did. I would pretend that I didn't notice. I do that right now in life. If somebody is upset at something, sometimes it's better to pretend like you don't even notice that they're giving you that negative energy, because then you can't feed off of that. I didn't even acknowledge, unless they said something. I would say, "It's my job to help you and make my life easier." Boom.

Yeah. You usually make it less intimidating for them, I get it.


Discrimination? I mean, sexual innuendos or just demeaning comments, or just a weird energy that you're in the middle of.

I experienced it a lot and a lot of women have experienced that. But any woman who is listening to me, I really think that you should consider trades if you're looking for an awesome career. One of the things that you will have to do is when you walk in there, walk in from day one like you belong. I would say before, when I used to first be on the job site, I always thought of it like, oh my gosh. I'm invading their space. I shrunk myself. Those things happened to me because I was walking, in hindsight a couple years ago I realized once I made this shift. I was walking in there always scared, always intimidated. They fed and felt that energy and treated me as such. Then it dawned on me, these guys are not smarter than me. They just know how to fake it better than women. Yes, guys pretend they know all the answers to everything when they don't.


No, trust me. They are my brothers, but a lot of times-

Yeah, but they actually have a word for that. They call it mansplaining, right?

Well, mansplaining is when they try to explain things to you that you already know. But they actually have a thing where a man will say in a room full of women, it was done, it was an experiment, about anyone in here know how to breastfeed? It was woman. A guy put his hands up.

That's awesome.

This is really true. He said, "Well, my wife breastfeeds." The women who have the boobs, we didn't say nothing. That's why men gets jobs and women a lot of times don't. Because even if a man is 50% qualified, he will apply. A woman, we're always waiting for 100. When I figured that out, that changed. I started working in the job site like I belonged. Since after that day, I really haven't been sexually harassed because I changed the way I walk in. Everybody says I walk in like I own the place. That's how I feel, like I belong. But sometimes I still get the... recently, it was a funny one.

This guy started working with us in night shift. My partner, who has been my partner for a while, I said, "I don't want this guy. I want to do the soldering." My partner was like, "Yeah, go ahead. Do it." I start soldering and the guy said, "Are you going to let the girl do it?" My partner laughed. He said, "Yeah. I mean, she's been a plumber 20 something years. Of course I'm going to let her do it." Then the guy said, "Oh man. My tools are going to be really confused." I said to him, which I always have the best comebacks, I said, "Yeah, your tools are going to be so happy. Finally there's somebody who knows how to use it."


Yeah, and the guy loved it. To his own credit, he's never worked with a female plumber. He's been a plumber where he was working, but he never had the opportunity to work with a woman. He was looking at it like he was going to be protecting me by him doing it. My partner was like, "Yo, no. You better let her do it." I don't know why, but I'm always quick with the comebacks. After that, he always remembered that line. I said that his tools are going to be so much happier that the person using it knows how to use it.

In a cool way, you're educating though the people around you. Just like, "Hey, man. This is the way it is. Be comfortable with it." That doesn't mean he's a bad guy it sounds like I'm hearing from you. It just means that he didn't have the experience.

No. Everything we do in life, we've surrounded ourselves with tries or people that makes us comfortable. We're used to a certain thing. If we really stretch ourselves, and we go into places and groups that we no longer are comfortable. As I tell my team, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. He had to figure that out. Now I work with him again and they always say, "Man, it's so cool that I get to work with a woman."


I think a lot of times, people just don't know stuff. I don't come with the anger right away like, "Why are you talking to me? I'm a feminist woman. Why are you saying..." I know from working with the men, they get the humor. I'm always going to come with the humor and jab you right back. Boom, right back at you, because I'm going to do the Mohammed Ali on you. Boom, boom.

That's right.

They love that.

I love that too.


Yeah, you seem to also have a lot of empathy for the fact that a lot of these guys have never experienced working with a woman before in their profession. I was wondering if you might offer up some words of guidance or wisdom to people that want to be an ally. That want to be an ally to a woman in the trades or to a woman in a position that they're not expecting based on tradition. How can a man be an ally to a woman?

I love that. I have a word for that. I call my friends, the guys, mallies. [inaudible 00:30:04]

That is awesome.

I guy can be a mally like how Brian [Turtoro 00:30:12] was to me and Neil. A lot of men in male dominated spaces, whether it be construction, the office, a lot of women, we don't have that network to break that barrier. We really don't. You could be the person who could mentor her like Brian did with me. Brian told me that, "You're not going to be a half assed plumber like these guys." He would make me do things over and over until I did it to the best. Until I soldered and there was no running. I was able to do the blueprints. Just getting the fact that you could be a mentor. And teach that person. Not only just being a mentor, because tons of women, we might have mentors. But be a sponsor like how Brian became my sponsor and got me into the union.

You might have a better ability as a man who has a business to say, "You know what? The next hire, I am intentionally going to hire and look for a woman." Judge her not because of... what I loved about Brian, he looked beyond my immigrant status, my blackness, my accent, my height. He saw me for me. That's huge. If you would just judge the women around you based on what they do and not what parts they have-

I like this guy Brian, by the way. I've never met him, but I wish I could meet him. He sounds like a total awesome guy.

Oh my gosh, he's so awesome. The thing that I love about Brian is up to this day, we're still friends. He's retired. Then now, I get to work on the job site with his son.

Oh, that's great.

Brian really not just became my mentor, but he really embraced me as a friend. Now I get to tell Brian. He didn't know that he was stepping up for me and being a hero. Now he gave me the opportunity, and he didn't even know that he was going to affect some of the girls that I have now. He did that without even knowing that. That's what I love about him, because now Brian lives on in the fact that Brian taught me. Now I get to see girls...

Your gratitude, that's so beautiful. Me and Tom and you and Brian should do a big quad group hug.


Yeah, we'll bring him back for the repeat.

I think that would be funny. He's funny too.

I'm so glad that you brought him up just simply because there are so many people that have touched our lives and affected our lives. By touching our lives, they propel us in a different direction to allow us to open doors for others.

And it makes us all want to be that guy.

Be the Brian.

I want to be Brian.

Be that guy. You can be that guy, be that guy. Brian, he did that without even knowing. Then besides that, he used to make me... I used to go to the union meetings. I would sit in the back because I didn't feel like I belonged. Brian used to say to me, "You better come up to the front. They've got to see you. You have to." He dragged me to the front. At the union meetings, when I sat at the back, I was the only woman at the whole union meeting because of Brian. They would say, "Hello. Good afternoon, brothers." And never acknowledge me because they didn't even know I was there. But because of Brian's persistence, he moved me to the middle. I was comfortable in the middle. Then he moved me and he made me sit in the front. They started saying, "Good afternoon brothers and sisters" because he did that.

Oh, there you go.

Yeah, because of him. I'm serious. To think that I grew up really poor in Trinidad and Tobago being an immigrant, and Brian spoke to someone that spoke to someone that got me to have a job that I make over $100,000 a year without a college degree is amazing. That's power.

That's about the best story of mentorship, of belief, of love, that I've heard in a long time. Thank you for sharing that. Now 20 something, 30 years later, do you walk into a site and then there's more women? Do you see more women everywhere? When you go to a union meeting, are there a lot of women now or no?

Yeah, there are a lot more women now and I'm so happy. Oh, there's a lot more women carpenters, iron wood. There's engineers, project managers. We even get to go out with each other for lunch, so that's cool. There's a lot more women. There's a lot more women becoming into the union and becoming apprentices, but a lot of them drop out because of the things we talk about, about the culture. I try to give them the tools that enabled me to stay. Give them so that they can journey out and stay. What I used to try to tell them, believe me, I wanted to quit many a times. There was good days and there was bad days. But the days that I wanted to quit, I had a mantra of where I would say, "Don't let anyone mess with your dead presidents." There's a lot of money up in plumbing.

If I drop out, I'm losing access to that. Because this is the one field, being a union plumber, I could definitely leave for a year and try my hand at singing. Let's just say I decided to become a rock and roll singer and crush Bon Jovi. I decide to do that, and then I suck at it and it didn't work out. I could come back four years, five years later, and never negotiate for my salary. Whatever the going rate is, that's what I get. That's the beauty. That's what I try to get the women to understand. That's why you stay. That money, never have I had to negotiate and get 65 cents on the dollar. Whatever the guy gets, I get. You can't put that... yeah.

You mentioned at the union meeting they say, "Hey brothers" at the beginning. Well, you're creating a sisterhood. You must be searching out women, right? In the trades. And then bringing them aboard as mentors for your organization, right? To be teachers, right?

Yes we do, yeah.

Yeah, so give me... tell us about some of them.

We have amazing women. I can only teach the plumbing. We have amazing sisters that step up and teach carpentry, teach electrical. All of them, what happens is the magic happens when they come to camp and teach the girls. I tell them that the girls are going to fall in love because that's what I experienced. The girls look at them as superheroes. Then the girls say to themselves, "Wow, they experienced all of that, then I can do it." We have girls who decided to be the only girl in Minecraft, the only girl in STEM. We have girls who decided she would be the only girl in the pilot summer camp because we give them, those women, as visuals. They realize that they can do it. Wow, really and truly, it's such a cliché student. I actually wish there was another way to say it, but it's so true. You cannot be it if you don't see it. The girls see it through these women. These women are changing lives every time they teach a workshop, every time.

Wow. What about the students? What about the girls? I bet you have amazing stories of watching girls go through a process where they're maybe scared as hell as the beginning or intimidated.


Then they slowly begin to get it.

Yeah, I have one that I've always loved. I have two stories. We had a camp in New Jersey. There was this young girl that we had welding. They put on their welding gear, their jackets, their helmets. They got the gloves. As time got closer to her time, she didn't want to do it and she started crying. I don't force the girls to do anything they don't want to do. But the other little girls went around her and they were holding her.

It was like, "You can do it. You can do it. Don't cry, you've got it. We'll be here for you." Then I went up to her and I said, "I know it might sound strange, but even a superhero like me, I get scared. What I learned is that even while you're scared, you can do it while you're scared." But I said, "If you don't want to do it, it's okay." Then all the girls kept on telling her. You should've seen them really cheering her on like, "Girl, you got this." Then finally, this is no joke and this amazed me. She does the welding and she was the best welder, no joke.


The welding teacher, she did it. Her puddles of the weld were the most beautiful. Then she started saying, "I'm going to be a welder." But the fact that we pushed them beyond their barriers. I know I told you I was going to steal your line. Whatever, I'll be okay. We pushed them beyond their barriers. She did that. That was really, really a mind blowing moment for me because it made me realize a lot of times, I'm very fearful of things. Because I'm with them, they actually cause me to step beyond my fear. I don't give them little easy things to do. I give them difficult tasks to do. Whether it be soldering, whether it be welding, whether it be iron working. I remember one year, we made an iron beam. We put them in a harness.

It wasn't high, but it was just to give them the concept of it. I still think that the iron workers are the fearless people in their jobs. We made them work over an iron beam and they tell each other, "You can do it." Just doing that makes them grow up to know that they can be fearless. It's been proven. At 10 years old, up to 10 years, girls believe that they can do anything. Then the messages that society tells them and the TV images, everything shows them that they need to compete with each other. But that's what we try to do with the trades. Don't let them show it. It's a team building effort. If we can stop girls from thinking beyond 10 years old that jobs have genders, they're going to rule. They're going to rule.

That's right.

I love that thought, right Tom? This idea that after 10, you start maybe being more aware of advertising and social media.


All the pressures that you need to go this direction.


Into these roles. Guys, you need to go into these roles otherwise you're... they're subtle, right?


You probably consciously aren't even aware that you're being shaped in that way.

It's so sad that society has these stigmas that they put on people about either this is only for one gender, or this is not a career that is the direction that you should go down. Only these people should do that. I think the more that we can break down those barriers, and frankly the more people like you, Judaline, can continue empowering all of these young girls and making sure that they approach life with the grit and the moxie that you bring them. I think we will all benefit.

What I love, I mean, I work directly with the girls because I want to impact the numbers. But I speak at high schools and before COVID, I traveled. Recently, I do a lot more Zoom ones. I speak to young boys also.

That's great.

Just to change this idea of when the country started looking down. We taught a whole generation of kids that, oh, you only become a trades person because you're not smart enough to go to college. That was such a lie and disservice to our country. I really believe with the money, we're going to reflux over $500 billion into construction, that more kids and more people jump into this, because it's definitely a skill. You're always going to need a plumber before you need a lawyer. Hello.

I'm no expert, but I feel like we're doing a disservice to men, to girls and boys because of that pressure of you have to have a white collar job. Otherwise, you're not valuable. You're not as valuable in some weird way. It's like our whole educational system is built around this idea that you have to become the lawyer or the doctor. Otherwise it's almost like saying you're a failure. That really bugs me. I don't know why there aren't more organizations like yours out there pushing this and saying, "This is incredibly valuable." Wasn't it Einstein that said, "If I came back in another life, I'd be a plumber?"

Yeah, he did, he did. The thing is, a lot of countries, in European countries, kids learn both. They have to do both in school. Trade, like Germany and a lot of other countries in Europe, they learn both. They learn to value and appreciate both. We used to do that and then we wanted to spend millions of dollars and have that wheel of the college, where people go get debt. And then they come out and they don't do anything related to what they studied. We have so many people in construction, no joke, that used their construction salary to pay of their college debt.

Well, we really do need as a society to celebrate the people that make, fix things. I think that the work that you're doing only is breaking down so many of those barriers on so many different levels. From race to gender to just traditional positions. But overall we need to as a society alert the people. Building, literally and figuratively building, our country and our world back.

All of my manifestations and goals for the future actually tied up with Tools and Tiaras beyond me becoming a better speaker. It's mostly because I just want a resurgence of the trades. That's why I want to do it, mostly because of that. Because I just love the men and women of the building trades. I want people to respect us.

You talked about borrowing the new barrier's words. You're breaking down barriers of not only people of different genders, different colors, different backgrounds, different jobs, but also different heights. You have transferred this barrier breaking spirit really across everywhere. We can't wait to figure out what's next. We want to work with you in the future on other things. You talked earlier about how you want to take some of our no barriers message. Well, I wanted to share with you. At No Barriers, our motto is what's within you is stronger than what's in your way. There are few people that I've met that truly live that, breathe that, and walk that more than you. Super excited to have had this opportunity. Eric, did you have any thoughts? Hasn't this just been a great conversation?

Yeah, this has been so fantastic. Judaline, thank you so much. Tom, thank you. It's been an amazing hour, one of my favorites.

Oh, thank you.

No Barriers to everyone. I'm sure people are just going to love this. Not only your message, but just your enthusiasm and all the ways that you've broken through so many barriers. Including the height one, yeah.

Thank you, thank you. It was such an amazing opportunity just speaking to you guys. I just love this platform. It's so much fun. I just love your message because it teaches me that I still have room to always grow. I actually read your motto and I was like, "Man, I'm going to have to copy that." I have a couple of mine, but I actually do love that motto because we have so much more that we can do.

Well, you can steal that motto and use it with the girls.

Thank you.

Yeah. Feel free to steal anything, all right?

All right.

Thank you.

Thank you so much. It was fun.

Thanks, Tom.

Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

No Barriers.

Thanks again for Prudential for supporting our podcast today and for allowing us to elevate these unique and diverse voices.

The production team behind this podcast includes Senior Producer Pauline Shaffer. Sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman, and marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie Dinardo, Erica Howey, and Alex Shaffer. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance. Thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. (singing)

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