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NAWIC and NEST run MyWIC, a nonprofit aimed at getting younger girls the chance to thrive in the male-dominated construction industry. Photo: Getty Images.
NAWIC and NEST run MyWIC, a nonprofit aimed at getting younger girls the chance to thrive in the male-dominated construction industry. Photo: Getty Images.

MyWIC, the Summer program teaching young women in Philly about the construction industry

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The construction industry has always been a male-dominated field, making it nearly impossible for women to learn the many crafts of construction.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 13% of employees in the construction industry are women in Philadelphia.

These numbers have also remained relatively stagnant.

Michelle Paxton, the vice president of the National Association of Women in Construction Philadelphia Foundation, made it her mission to address the problem of the lack of women in the construction industry when she developed MyWIC

MyWIC is a six-week Summer program for seventh through 12th-grade girls who are interested in gaining better knowledge about the construction industry.

Every week of the program, the girls are able to visit a different union trade in Philadelphia

The program offers many opportunities for young women such as carpentry, electrical, painting, taping, glazing, and laboring. It also allows women to engage with one another, and create long-lasting relationships and connections.

The program also takes pride in introducing participating girls to apprenticeship programs and scholarship opportunities — a concept that isn't common in Philadelphia for girls in the industry.

For Paxton, the opportunity is something that she has never had access to when she came into the construction workplace 20 years ago.

Paxton spoke at length about the sexism she faced in the workforce and the feeling that her male counterparts didn’t take her seriously because she is a woman.

“I have been treated as though I’ve been non-existent, so, any other female that gets into this industry, I don’t want it to be this difficult for them,” she told CBS Philly.

Paxton, along with NEST, a national facilities management company based in Brooklawn, N.J., runs MyWIC. 

The program also provides girls with all of the gear and materials they need to be a part of MyWIC, such as hard hats, boots, tools, and lunch thanks to many donations from local construction firms and other organizations.

The experience girls gain from MyWIC doesn't mean they have to be a part of the construction industry. Providing girls with the knowledge, confidence, and tools the construction world offers skills that also lead to potential careers as engineers, architects, project managers, superintendents, lawyers, or business owners.

MyWIC started its Summer program in early July, and it runs through Aug. 17.

For more information on the program, please visit its website.

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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