Meet Johnetta Abraham, Cement Mason

Meet Johnetta Abraham, Cement Mason

If a construction job calls for concrete of any kind — whether it be pouring curbs and sidewalks, pouring foundations or retaining walls — or for concrete finishing — a cement mason is the right person for the job. “I enjoy getting in the mud, working with the mud,” says Johnetta Abraham.

Before becoming a cement mason, Johnetta completed a pre-apprenticeship program with Oregon Tradeswomen. “They really helped me on the math. I hadn’t been to school for years and I was kind of rusty.”

The job of a cement mason can be both rewarding and demanding at times. It results in a finished work product that gets a lot of visibility on a completed job site. “I like seeing a finished product,” says Johnetta. “I like telling my kids that I had something to do with that. Something they can see. Something concrete.” At the same time, the work can be demanding on the body. It requires physical strength and a lot of lifting. And according to Johnetta, “If you don’t hustle, you get laid off.”

Regardless of the challenges, however, Johnetta enjoys her work and she’s creatively motivated to succeed. “Before, you know, I just had a job and I was using it to make the bills. Now I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

Photo credit: Dawn Jones,Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.

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Tool Box for Success

Do you have the tools you need to succeed in construction?
  • Attach yourself to a journey-worker on the job site and learn from them
  • Focus to get ahead if you want to stay in the field
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Be good at your job
  • Work up your physical strength
  • Realize that there are no short-cuts
  • Enjoy the experience
  • Make friends with everyone
  • Go with the flow
  • Have a thick skin
  • Know who you are
  • Employ good time-management skills and good listening skills
  • Have a good learning attitude
  • Know that you are the competition
  • Don’t give up
  • Study hard at school
  • Be ready for a lot of work
  • Listen to what the foreman is saying
  • Learn how to take orders well
  • Learn how to take initiative
  • Be detail-oriented but do the job fast at the same time
  • Maintain good communication and ask questions
  • Know your stuff!
  • Be physical, work out
  • Work harder than everybody else, don’t talk a lot, pay attention, show up on time, be dependable and don't phone in sick unless you absolutely need to!
  • Have fun!!
Barriers to employment for women in construction

Although this list is not all-inclusive, it was included to give an indication of the kinds of barriers some women will face, and overcome.
  • Biased or discriminatory hiring practices
  • Stereotypical perceptions of women's abilities
  • Isolation of women in male-dominated worksites
  • Unequal pay for women performing similar jobs as male co-workers
  • Various forms of harassment (CLMPC, 1990; SPR Associates, 2002A; Grzetic, 1998;)
  • There is a lack of diversity training among co-workers, including clarity around the issue of employment equity. (WITT-NN, 1999)
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of education and fundamental skills
  • Lack of informal mentors to develop an interest in the trades
  • Lack of management / supervisor leadership in setting an appropriate tone in terms of acceptance of women in male-dominated workplaces. WITT-Alberta, 2000)
  • Physical Strength Limitations
  • Stereotypes / Sexism / Perception of women on job site
  • Lack of information available about trades as a career option
  • Lack of daycare/difficulty with work / life balance
Getting around Barriers

  • Recognize the friendly faces at your jobsite
  • Dress appropriately for the trade
  • Identify something your company does a lot of and get good at it
  • Use common sense
  • Find a mentor
  • Become good at job hunting
  • Network
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