Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Judaline Cassidy dreamed of becoming a lawyer. But when her family situation made it impossible for her to attend university for a law degree, she turned to plumbing instead. “I fell in love with it,” she says with excitement, “knowing that what I do helps improve people’s lives on a daily basis and protects society.”
After moving to New York, she tried to launch a career in the field. But having access to health benefits, a pension and a lucrative salary meant becoming a member of a union, and she was denied entry. The young men who wanted to join were able to “because they’re men,” she says.
“With me, the union said to ‘go home and do dishes.’ I didn’t get in.”
Judaline worked as a housekeeper, nanny, babysitter, and personal shopper. But she kept trying to win over the union. Finally, one man who believed in her helped shepherd her in. She went on to become a leader in the union, helping create its first Women’s Committee. More recently, she founded Lean In Women in Trades and the organization Tools & Tiaras to help inspire girls to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated trades.
She’ll deliver a keynote address at The Energy 2.0 Forum, mainstage event in Houston March 10. She spoke with Pink Petro about her journey -- and about what she plans to discuss.
What do you plan to discuss?
The fact that people are the solution to a better economy and country, and that everyone can make a difference. Somebody had the effect on my life to help me, and now I’m an architect of change. The man who helped me took a little step that had a ripple effect. He didn’t know it would lead to me doing what I do now.
Support from men is crucial in helping women break into male-dominated professions.
Yes, including as mentors. I wouldn’t be the world’s best plumber if I hadn’t had male mentors! I didn’t have any women teachers. And now I have the ability to mentor women and girls. It’s important.
You also talk about how people can evolve.
Yes. The same person who told me to go home and do dishes ended up becoming one of my biggest advocates later on after I got into the union and showed what I was about. My work ethic, skill, personality, and charm helped. He saw the passion with which I love plumbing, that I loved the craft as much as he did.
So when someone tells you you can’t do something -- that you’re not a good dancer, singer, or astronaut -- that same person could later turn around and be your biggest fan. You have to show people what you’re capable of on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we as women still often have to work twice as hard.
You call yourself a “feminist plumber.” Tell us what that means to you.
I believe that women can do any job that they want. I own my power as a female. I’m walking in it and doing the same thing the men are doing. I’m a badass woman! And I believe that jobs don’t have genders.
What are your thoughts on energy moving forward into this new era?
In my line of work, we play such a critical role side by side with the energy field - we do pipelines and refineries and more. Moving forward, I think we can be better as an industry if we allow more people of diversity to come in. Companies with more diverse groups of people see an increase in profits. And I'm very passionate about the environment and how plumbing pays a part in it. It’s an integral part of moving the economy in a healthy and profitable way.
Hear from Judaline Cassidy at The Energy 2.0 Forum, in person or online. Visit energy2dot0.com.Judaline Cassidy Energy 2.0 Houston and Online March 9-11