WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION WEEK SPOTLIGHT: Gladys Williams, Heavy Civil Highway, I-691/I-91 NB Interchange, Meriden

WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION WEEK SPOTLIGHT: Gladys Williams, Heavy Civil Highway, I-691/I-91 NB Interchange, Meriden

How long have you been in the construction industry?

With 30 years of experience, Gladys entered the industry as a member of the Local 455 Laborers Union back in 1994. Serving as a Union Steward for the past two decades, she plays a crucial role in overseeing and advocating for worker rights on the I-91/I-691 Meriden project.

How did you get started in the construction industry?

In the early years of her career, Gladys worked in a factory. In the early 1990s, her brother-in-law encouraged her to apply for a job with the City of New Haven. The city was actively seeking to hire more minority women for construction projects. She was immediately hired and sent to laborers’ school. Afterward, she was assigned to a large sewer installation project in New Haven, managed by Massachusetts-based Balthazar Construction Company.

Her first day on the job was nerve-wracking as a young black woman in a male-dominated industry. Some of her colleagues judged her and gave her a hard time. However, Gladys won them over with her cheerful personality and quickly established herself as part of the team by seeking their guidance and closely paying attention to their knowledge. She even asked one coworker to teach her how to lay sewer pipes, which he reluctantly provided. Within the first week, she mastered the skill, impressing her mentor and other team members and earning their respect. Since then, Gladys has never looked back – she was born for construction work!

Tell me about your role.

Gladys started her journey at O&G on the I-95 Branford Accelerated Bridge Construction project alongside Pete Hinman and Chris McPadden. She then contributed her skills to the I-84 West Hartford project, and most recently, she has been involved in the South Windsor project. Presently, her main responsibility lies in delivering all the necessary supplies to the crew working on the I-91 / I-691 Meriden project. She proudly refers to herself as the Yard Dog, ensuring that everyone is equipped with everything they need to perform their best and successfully complete the job. Moreover, Gladys possesses a versatile skill set that allows her to assist in various aspects of the job. She cherishes the strong bonds she has forged with her team members; particularly with Bobby Nardi, Carlos Batista, Larry Doyon, and Joe Niro.

What’s most fulfilling about your role?

Without a doubt, Gladys finds great satisfaction in every facet of her job. But what truly brings her the most joy is being able to spread happiness among her colleagues; this is something she looks forward to every day.

Gladys is a very dependable part of our staff.  She runs around the job with precision, keeping production and quality rates at a high level. All employees seem to have no qualms about approaching her with their own particular needs. I have simply never heard her say the words ‘can’t’, or ‘no’. She is a very pleasant person to be around, and her personality is infectious!

Bobby Nardi, Superintendent, I-691/I-91 NB Interchange, Meriden

How does the company support you in your role?

“I am extremely fortunate to have full support from both upper management at headquarters and my supervisors in the field, Bobby, and Carlos. They frequently emphasize the need for more women like me to join the workforce, which is an incredibly flattering compliment,” explained Gladys.

She added that management understands the significance of appreciating employees who excel in their roles and realizes that encouragement and recognition are key to motivating employees to keep up the great work.

“Even though I had planned to retire after 30 years, the support I’ve received from this company makes me want to stay until this project is finished in five years.”

What’s your advice for other women looking to enter the construction industry?

Just put your mind to it! Show up every single day, no matter what – that will earn you respect. Keep your focus and get the job done. But most importantly, stay safe!