Historically, construction may have been known as a “man’s job,” but today, plenty of women enjoy construction careers. Now, there’s a place where women workers can find construction clothing and PPE that is crafted to their fit.
And the store’s founder is a Laborer: Deidre Douglas, a cement and concrete worker and a member of LU #20 in Long Island City, N.Y.
Her business is Woman Up, based in a storefront in Brooklyn. Launched in 2009, the business helps women in the construction trades and many other industrial settings fill a gaping void: because most trades and industrial workers are men (about 90 percent in construction), work clothes outlets devote little shelf space to women’s needs.
Going on camera to explain her motives and her products, the effervescent Douglas is knowledgeable and upbeat. Recounting her struggles with PPE that didn’t fit to an ENR reporter, she says, “I didn’t want other women who come into the trades to work like this. While I was working, that’s what I was dreaming of, to have clothes that fit, having boots that were comfortable, so when I got the opportunity and the finances, I opened the store.” She also outfitted a mobile truck so she can bring her products to jobsites.
To stock clothing and gear designed for women, she relies on six clothing makers, including Timberland and Matterhorn. Through other vendors, she stocks chemical protection overalls, high-visibility vests, steel toe boots, gloves, fall protection harnesses, hardhats and other PPE designed to fit women. She also stocks a variety of cleaning products and lotions to help women clean-up after work.
She even makes room for a line of men’s clothing and gear that she displays with her truck, taking orders which are filled through next-day delivery. “If my clients are working, they’re not going to come into the store, so I [have to] bring the equipment to them,” she says.
While Douglas has dreams of entrepreneurial success, she’s not ready to give up her day job. She keeps her book current and is happy when the hiring hall calls.
Additional women’s work wear outlets around the U.S. and Canada are listed in The Directory – Where to Find PPE for Women, a project of the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Industrial Accident Prevention Association. For more information about gender-specific health and safety issues faced by women in construction, consult the LHSFNA’s Women in Construction and OSHA’s Women in the Construction Workforce: Providing Equitable and Safety and Health Protection.