Women at Work: Worcester Courthouse Lofts


To change the status quo is to constantly evolve and improve. Tocci loves seeing this on our projects, from implementing new technology to utilizing robotics and modular. At the Worcester Courthouse Lofts (WCL), we see construction evolving through the skill and grit of women including trade partners (WBEs) and women in trades, as well as Tocci’s project managers. Although their backgrounds are unique, they share a passion for their work.

Dezire

Dezire, a 19-year-old apprentice with Superior Plumbing, is on her very first project at the WCL. After attending Worcester Technical High School and learning the basics of eight trades, Dezire ultimately decided plumbing was her niche. While she admits having anxiety about her first day at work, Dezire said she was immediately eased by the support and mentorship onsite. She noted that despite the male dominated environment, her colleagues constantly offer to lend a hand when needed. So often that Dezire often responds, “I got this!” Dezire’s work ethic and eagerness to learn is the exact reason her foreman, Jerrett, says “She is a phenomenal apprentice who will be a great licensed plumber when the time comes.”  

Dezire likes the fast-paced work environment. She enjoys the challenge of daily problem solving and learning as she goes. She also enjoys working alongside her team and other trades, noting that communication truly is key. Dezire has learned how to coordinate with her fellow trades to create rhythms and establish relationships to ensure “they work together, rather than against each other”.  

Thanks to the high number of women on the jobsite, Dezire has additional support from females in other trades who have established a sense of community and look out for each other. She hopes women continue to enter construction because “we need to prove that we can do the same as the men can do”. 

 

Sue

Some women on the project have decades of industry experience, trailblazing for women like Dezire to enter the industry. Sue Muckle is the owner of M&A Architectural Preservation and believes “women should be represented across the board in all industries and businesses.”  

In the 90s, fed up with the tech industry, Sue was desperate for a more fulfilling career. Her husband Richard was a preservation expert working as a sole proprietor, and the opportunity arose for her to take over the company and expand their capacity to perform larger restoration projects and public work.

Sue finds great value working on “forever buildings,” as she calls them.  The tech industry had a software update every 6 months, but with architectural restoration “there is a huge satisfaction knowing that it will last 100 years from now and remain just as revered”. Sue and her team have worked on several significant historic structures, and the adaptive reuse of the WCL is a perfect example of preserving the city’s architectural, cultural, and historical heritage.   

Sue hopes to see more women enter the construction industry, specifically in the field. In the last few years, she has noticed a deficit of trained engineers and trade workers and commented on the importance of tapping women for these positions.

Gelmira

Two weeks after graduating from Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover, Gelmira accepted a job as a carpenter at M&A Architectural Preservation. In the last eight years she rose from apprentice, to journeyman, and finally to foreman – her current role at the WCL.

Gelmira reflects upon her growth fondly. “It’s actually a funny story…” As an apprentice, Gelmira worked under a foreman with poor penmanship. He’d often enlist her assistance to complete their daily paperwork, and after months of support, Gelmira realized she knew everything about their processes, contracts, bidding, etc… Management recognized this as well and were quick to give her additional responsibilities. Her greatest piece of advice? Be vocal about your goals. Gelmira was not shy about expressing her desire for professional development. This resulted in opportunities for training and growth, ultimately leading her to where she is today.

Gelmira’s greatest accomplishment to date is being a female, minority foreman, which she hopes will encourage young women who are hesitant to join the industry. She attends national conferences, speaks on panels, and visits local schools to share her story with young women, hoping they can relate to her and think, “if she can do it, I can too!” She is extremely encouraged by the female participation onsite at WCL, reporting it is the most female dominated crew she has ever worked with.

Tocci is gratified to see women making an impact on WCL. Diversifying the industry is an overarching goal CMs and trade professionals aim to accomplish. It is unleashing potential for the industry and the women who entering it. Tammi Gott, who manages Compliance at Tocci, quantifies the success of the female participation:  

As of this month, we have officially met our 6.9% goal. Our female participation goal is being met by superstar subcontractors like ADEP, Wayne Griffin, Superior Plumbing, The Masonry Doctor, and M&A Architectural Preservation. We’re seeing percentages within these trades range from 13.4% – already double the goal – to almost 40%. We applaud those that put in the time and effort to meet these goals and better the industry by opening doors to women. 

Tocci’s female operations team, Project Manager, Zeina Habib, and Assistant Project Manager, Sally Akiki, are proud to see these goals surpassed. Zeina says: 

It is inspiring seeing women working on the field. It helps break the stereotype about women in construction and I am grateful to be working on a project encouraging that. 

The success of female participation at Worcester is not only celebrated, but an expectation for Tocci’s future projects. We are excited to close this project out together and we thank all our female trade workers for their dedication and craftsmanship.
 



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