Latoya Richardson’s story is proof that you do not have to be a man to build the future of New York City.
By Latoya Richardson
Admit it: When you think of a construction worker, you probably aren’t thinking of a woman. That is because the reality is that this is a male-dominated industry that is filled with roadblocks for women like myself who want to pursue a career in this industry. But that does not need to be the case. I have made a career for myself in construction, and my story is proof that you do not have to be a man to build the future of New York City.
Although I am often the only woman on my job site, I am in every other way a perfect fit for a job in construction in New York. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and have always been a hard worker. My first job was at age 15 when I worked at the King’s County courthouse after school as a teenager, but I quickly realized that the outdoors were for me.
I started to work odd jobs as a landscaper, bricklayer and demolition worker and really felt like I was at home on the job for the first time. I was doing what I wanted to be doing and I genuinely felt fulfilled by the work. But this did not lead to an easy job in construction. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I struggled to find a full-time job in the industry that would pay me a good, dependable wage. In other words, I had a job – not a career. That was beyond frustrating for me, and I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t have the same opportunities as some of my male colleagues. Maybe, just maybe, I thought to myself, a future in construction wasn’t right for me.
These feelings of self-doubt were greatly exacerbated after a life-changing car accident in which I lost my unborn baby. After suffering such a traumatic event, I didn’t know where to turn or what could possibly come next for me. So I decided to return to what I knew best – construction.
I was ultimately connected to a program called Building Skills New York, which provides access to expanded career opportunities in construction to workers like me who do not typically have an easy path into the industry. I was given valuable advice, counsel and training, ultimately leading to my current job as a general laborer with Platinum Construction Services, Inc. right in my very own Brooklyn. Platinum took a chance on me because of Hudson Companies and McAlpine Contracting. Hudson, a developer and owner, is a regular supporter of Building Skills and introduced the program to McAlpine and the job site where I ultimately landed. It’s amazing to think about all the people along the way who said yes to Building Skills and how that made it possible for me to be where I am today.
Building Skills was invaluable to my career, but the most important service the program ever gave me was support in what was the most turbulent period of my life. It felt like every door in my life was closing, but Building Skills never gave up on me — and, in fact, they opened up a new door of opportunity.
And that is my dream for all hardworking women just like me across this great city. I want to see a day when construction sites do not have just one or, at most, two or three women working on them. I want to see a day when the construction industry in New York is every bit as diverse as the amazing city the industry helps build. The good news is that the tools to enter this great industry are out there — now it is time only for us to use them.
Latoya Richardson is a participant in Building Skills New York and an employee of Platinum Construction Services, Inc. at a construction site being developed by Hudson Companies.