Teaching Girls That ‘Jobs Don’t Have Genders®’

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Tools & Tiaras Founder/CVO Judaline Cassidy with a group of summer campers during a carpentry workshop. (photo: L’Oréal Paris)

Nanny. Housekeeper. Personal shopper. Plumber.

Judaline Cassidy worked a series of jobs after leaving her native Trinidad and Tobago to immigrate to New York City as a teenager in 1989. “But plumbing has been the thing that has helped me to climb out of poverty,” she says.

Cassidy received training as a plumber while attending trade school abroad and carved out a career in the field within a few years of arriving in the U.S. In the construction trades, women are still a rarity. Women represent 14% of the construction workforce overall but just 4% of professionals in the building trades. Through Cassidy’s New York nonprofit Tools & Tiaras Inc., which she launched in 2017, she trains and mentors girls ages 6-14 interested in the construction trades. Exposing girls to male-dominated occupations such as electrician, carpenter, plumber, and auto mechanic puts them on the path to economic mobility and gives them the self-confidence to challenge the idea that jobs have genders.

Through Tools & Tiaras, girls get exposure to the mechanical, industrial, and technical trades by participating in hands-on monthly workshops during which skilled women teach them about tools, craftsmanship, and the history of the trades. Girls also have the option to attend a summer camp where they learn the fundamentals of different trades and develop team-building skills – complete with a hard hat, safety glasses, and work gloves.

“A six-year-old picks up a drill. She picks up a welding torch, and she believes, ‘I can do this!’ She’s unstoppable,” Cassidy says.

Some of the first participants in the program are heading to college. They’re planning to study fields such as engineering and aviation, having encountered women pilots through Tools & Tiaras. The girls also met the feminist Gloria Steinem and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, whom they grilled about his wife, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It was just amazing for us that that happened,” Cassidy says.

The “Trickle-Up” Effect

Tools & Tiaras has not only made an impact on the young girls it serves but also deeply impacted their mothers, many of whom have pursued trade careers after learning about the pay and benefits.

“It is a way for a woman who is really living in poverty or close to that line to go through a union apprenticeship program and make a salary and then be able to take care of a family, buy houses,” Cassidy says.

Still, she warns women that a trade career isn’t easy. As they perform physical labor, they will also have to deal with the emotional toll of working in a largely male environment where others have low expectations of them, she says. Cassidy now balances being a full-time plumber with running Tools & Tiaras, which she would like to move to a bigger and better space. She needs resources to achieve both that goal and another goal – to open chapters of Tools & Tiaras in multiple locations, beyond its Boston chapter,  à la the Girl Scouts.

Cassidy believes that the confidence the girls gain from operating power tools at a young age will follow them into adulthood.

“Even if they never become plumbers or electricians, I know for a fact they’re going to be leaders,” she says.


Tools & Tiaras Inc.

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​Tools & Tiaras Inc. is on a mission to show girls (ages 6-14) that Jobs Don’t Have Genders™. We do this through hands-on monthly workshops and summer camps that are centered on the skilled construction trades. Our pioneering – Expose. Inspire. Mentor. – programming shatters stereotypes and changes the prevailing “women’s work” narrative to one that is expansive and opportunity-filled. We empower girls with the skills and self-confidence they need to see limitless possibilities for themselves so they can build and shape the world they envision.

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