People: Stacy May, a woman in a man's (?) business

September 27, 2004|HERB BROCK

When I was in college and looking for a summer job, a friend was working construction for his father's company and suggested I give it a try. I gave it a try - a try that lasted a grand total of five minutes watching my friend and his crewmates work hard in the searing heat.

I told him my idea of a job did not include hard work, heavy machinery or the heights one encounters on scaffolding. Hard work is for oxen, heights for goats. He replied, in a comment that questioned my manhood and was even politically incorrect three decades ago, "Hey, Brock, you a girl or something?"

I retorted as a proud, card-carrying member of the girlie-man community, "I may be a sissy, but I'm going to be a sissy who survives a workday."

Today, if my friend were to pose the "you a girl or something" question at construction sites around the country, he would be liable to get a lot of positive responses from real women. Unless a construction company boss has a hard head under that hard hat, he welcomes women. And it may well be that the boss is a she, as well.


I don't have to go far to find a real, live example of the influx of women in the construction trades. One of them has been working on a major renovation project at a business across from the newspaper building on the corner of Fourth and Grant streets. The building houses Yesterday's Potions, a hair styling salon and coffee shop.

Stacy May of Waynesburg is not a "hard hat," but she's not a soft touch, either. The 30-year-old Lincoln County woman works side by side with her husband, Chris, in their vinyl siding business. May Siding is a subcontractor on the renovation project, which is headed up by general contractor Steve Tipton of Lancaster.

"In this area, there are more and more women working in construction and construction-related trades than ever before," said May, double-checking the measurements on the design plan for the vinyl siding while her husband was about 20 feet up on scaffolding - a foot off the ground would've been too high for me - installing the siding.

"Just considering projects that we've been involved in in recent years, we regularly work with four other women involved in construction, including one who's a plumber and two others who are in heating and air work," she said. "On this project, there are three women involved in the renovation.

"And I know of several other women who are in fields involving heavy equipment, like backhoe operators and bulldozer operators. ... In this area, it used to be that there were only about five general contractors that dominated construction, but there are a lot more now. And that has meant a lot more opportunities for people in the construction trades, and that includes women because there are lot more women in the trades."

Construction trade in her upbringing

When it was career-selecting time for May, a construction trade was not at the top of the list, but it was in her upbringing, if not in her genes.

After graduating from Lincoln County High School in 1992, May got an associate degree in early childhood development. She worked in the field for a while, then became involved in the development of her own child. She and her high school sweetheart and husband of 10 years, also from Waynesburg and a 1990 graduate of LCHS, had Sebastian in 1994. Before long, though, May was getting involved with her husband's business as he became busier.

She now sees what she is doing as fate being fulfilled, as a response to a calling that had been in the back of her mind since she was a child, a career for which her father built the foundation. "I was an only child growing up in Waynesburg, and I think my dad wanted me to be a boy," said May. "It wasn't like I got a hammer instead of a doll for my birthdays, but he would let me help with a lot of projects that involved some kind of construction or maintenance work. I loved it."

The siding business includes fabricating metals, cornice and trim work, and some carpentry, plus a lot of design work. And of course, there is the installation of the siding at construction time. May is involved with many of these activities. "I also do the paperwork and the business end of the company, but I prefer the working end of it," she said. And there has been a lot of work the last couple of years.

"We've been blessed with a lot of activity. We have regular subcontracting jobs with nine general contractors in the central Kentucky area," said May, who still keeps up her interest in childhood development and her son's education by squeezing in 70 to 80 hours a year in volunteer work at his elementary school.

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