This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past discussions.
Tammy Meyen’s father was a union roofer who encouraged her to look into the sheet metal industry for her own career. At the age of 19 she joined the Western Washington Sheet Metal Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee in Dupont, Washington. She graduated from the program in 2005.
Since then, she has worked at Kent, Washington-based PSF Mechanical, rising to the position of shop foreperson in 2011. In her new role as the recruitment and retention specialist for the International Training Institute — the educational arm of the unionized sheet metal industry — Meyen will help promote the trades to other women.
Meyen, a member of SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers Local 66, is well aware that women represent less than 5% of sheet metal workers, and believes that initiatives such as offering lactation pods can help encourage women of childbearing age to consider the trades.
Here, she talks with Construction Dive about the importance of a diverse workforce and why she thinks construction makes a good career.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What do you do in your current job and where are you located?
TAMMY MEYEN: I’m located in Snohomish, Washington, but I offer assistance to training centers around the country for all things related to recruitment and retention. I co-teach a class called Bias and Belonging and I’m on several BE4ALL subcommittees, which is an initiative put forth by SMART and ITI as well as the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association to work on fostering an environment of belonging and excellence for all.
In this role, I will focus on recruitment and retention efforts of apprentices at 150 training centers across the United States and Canada to bring more people into the industry and help ensure they find it a welcoming environment.
When I tell my kids about it, I jokingly say that my job is to go around the country and teach people not to be mean.
Tell us more about BE4ALL.
The Belonging and Excellence for All effort is a targeted approach to ensure that all members, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, experience an environment of welcoming, belonging and excellence.
We need an industry that embodies professionalism – not only in our technical skills, but in the work environment we create: free from harassment, discrimination, bullying and hazing. We need an industry where our members and contractors can do the best possible work efficiently and effectively.
These are all critical ingredients to creating a thriving culture and industry. And SMART believes BE4ALL is the vehicle for how we make this happen.
What are a few of the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on and why?
Working in the field with tools, the project that was the most memorable to me was the Snohomish County Jail Expansion. Seeing how the mechanical chases were set up inside jail cells was fascinating to me. You don’t typically see that type of security feature in standard jobs.
I assisted with welding burglar bars into the duct throughout the project and even spent a significant amount of time inside the duct.
What are the benefits to working in construction?
You get to challenge both your mind and your body. First, you figure out how to accomplish the task at hand, then you do it. Also, with construction, the workplace is always changing as work progresses. This keeps the job exciting and new.
What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?
My advice would be to “do it!” We are just as smart and just as capable as our male counterparts. There are so many opportunities available to you, you just have to be brave enough to take the first step.