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Mar

11

2021

Women's History Month and Women in Construction Week with TD Partner Kaylin Leas

As part of TD’s ongoing recognition of Women's History Month and Women in Construction Week, we are excited to feature some of TD's female Partners. 

We asked each Partner a few questions about her time in the industry and her thoughts on women in construction: 

As a female welder and one of TD’s go-to Partners for her positive attitude and impressive skillset, Kaylin is making a big impact at TD, where she has been for two years.   

A former High School Rodeo Champion, Kaylin learned welding on the job after befriending other welders and learning the trade. After diligent practice, she passed her first welding test in 2013. Previous welding experience has included time in the power and gas plants and ethanol processing facilities industries.

Kaylin’s supervisors often rely on her for specialized jobs, and she is always willing to learn more in order to advance her career in commercial construction. One of Kaylin’s mottos is:“Be better, do better and set a good example."

Kaylin was recently nominated for the 2020 Tradeswoman of the Year by the Empowering Women in Industry initiative, and she enjoys opportunities to give back as a mentor to the next generation of women in construction.

Q: How did you land in the construction industry?

A: Initially, my dad had mentioned it when I was a junior in high school. I kept it in the back of my mind as I had other intentions at the time. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I actually acted upon it. I had a contact in the field, and they were able to get me on as a laborer.

In February 2011, The Hunter Power plant in Castle Dale, Utah was my first construction job. I remember I had to learn how to bevel pipe. At this time, I really hadn’t grasped the concept of what I was actually getting myself into. It wasn’t until my next job in Hugoton, Kansas, building an Ethanol plant, that I actually understood what it was that I was learning. I finally saw the big picture. I saw my first pipe welder. He was welding 12”schedule 40 stainless steel pipe. At that moment, I knew in my soul, that’s what I wanted to do, and nothing was going to get in my way. My mind was set.

Q: What do you enjoy about the construction industry and your role specifically at TD?

A: I love construction because I am able to use my hands to build America. From power plants to ethanol plants, to food processing plants and Georgia pacific plants, I was basically paid to travel America. The places I’ve been and the plants I’ve worked on were all so informative. I have this burning desire to know how things work, so I ask questions. I would have never known how things worked or even came to be as they are, without construction. I feel like I’m living my own personal "How It Works" TV show.

Construction has also given me a sense of pride. It has been a long and hard road to get me to where I am now, and I’m proud of my work. I wouldn’t change anything.

To answer your question about TD, I feel like TD found me. I remember when (Production Manager) Mike Feagan called me, I felt TD was too good to be true. How could a company have all these great benefits, and still be a thriving company? How can they pay for uniforms and boots, and still give out bonuses? I wasn’t in the best place in my life, and I was ready for not only a change, but for something to go right. Fast forward about a month, I had my first TD job under my belt. It’s funny how everything works out. TD was the final piece of a puzzle. I found a home and I still get to travel, but I was also still able to come home every night. Not only did I have a great company to work for, but now I can be a real person with a real life. A company that’s willing to give me that, is a company that I’m willing to work hard for. They are taking care of me, so I’ll be sure to take care of them.

Q: What can be done to increase the percentage of women in construction? How can companies recruit more women and promote diversity?

A: I think awareness that there are successful women in construction, and that there are more women who get in the trades every day, would increase the percentage of woman in construction. I know when I was just breaking out, the only women on the job site were either in the office as an administrator or in the field as a fire watch, tool attendant or helper. I don’t think these women knew that they had the ability or opportunity to do more.

I knew that I wanted to be a welder, but I never felt that as a woman, it wasn’t obtainable. I feel some women are hesitant to get into the trades because they maybe feel undermined, or still in the mindset that women aren’t supposed to be in construction.

I think the women who are successful in construction need to be the voice for future women who have the same desire. Whether that is as a welder, an electrician, plumber, iron worker, etc. Women need to know that it’s ok to want to work with their hands. It’s ok to get dirty and work 10 hour shifts and do whatever it takes to build this amazing building or bridge or road. If being in construction is what you want to do, then do it. Don’t let anything stop you.

Q: What barriers do women face in the construction industry? How has this changed over time?

A: One of the barriers women face in the construction industry is fear. Construction is a male dominant trade. You definitely have to be tough and you can’t play the girl card if you want to be respected in the industry. We’re ALL here to do a job, and if you can’t do it, there’s someone else who can. I’m too proud to let anyone tell me to step aside.

Another barrier women face is men assuming women don’t know the trade. For example, I’ve been in construction for 10 years, and I still encounter people who think I don’t know anything. Usually, I keep my mouth shut and I just do my thing. I let my work speak for itself.

As far as seeing a change, there are more men in the industry now who are accepting of women in the trades. They’re also willing to lend a hand to help teach and grow these women.

Q: What areas of the industry do you feel still have the biggest need for women?

A: I think all skilled trades need women. Additionally, skilled trades needs to be promoted more than college. Skilled trades are what make the world go around. There will always be construction, in every form of fashion. And we need to train the best and brightest to carry on the tricks of the trade.

Q: What opportunities are available for women to advance and grow their careers in the industry? Any professional networking groups where women can collaborate together?

A: There are SO many opportunities, if you’re willing to work for them. If being in construction is something that you want to do, you will find a way, or you’ll find an excuse. I say that in all aspects of life. There are countless networking groups to join. Some of my favorites can be found on Instagram and Facebook: Blue collar sisters, golden arm collective, empowering woman in industry, women welders, women who weld, and of course, you can follow me at WelderWoman_88 on Instagram.

Q: What advice would you have for young women who are eager to join the construction industry?

A: My advice is to be tough. Always ask questions, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t do it. But most important, DON’T QUIT. Push through.

 

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