When it comes to her career, Maria Tsamasiros works with her brain and body.
"I feel like I’m Popeye, because I use my right hand a lot more than my left hand,” she said.
Tsamasiros has a bachelor’s degree in communications, a masters in sustainability and an MBA. Recently, she became a licensed master plumber.
“It’s really great to be a female in the trades in New York City or a person of color,” she said. “It feels like almost you’re invited into an exclusive club basically.”
Tsamasiros is one of a growing number of women across the country now working in trades.
“When the Department of Labor started a big apprenticeship initiative, women’s numbers have been going up. They’ve been rising very rapidly," said Ariane Hegewisch with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).
A new study by the IWPR found more than 300,000 women work in construction trades today, which Hegewisch says is almost 16% higher than in 2019.
“It’s a well-kept secret,” she said of women working in trades. “And I’m very happy that the secret is getting out, because these are often good jobs.”
Despite the increase, women still make up just 4% of the trade workforce.
That’s something Tsamasiros hopes to change by taking on leadership positions.
“Women getting more involved is exciting because it’s something that shouldn’t be exclusive toward men,” she said.
Tsamasiros is now a safety director for a plumbing company, managing more than 250 employees on job sites across greater New York.
Her career combines brain and body while also inspiring other women.
"If this is something that you are interested in, definitely go for it. Don’t be afraid of it,” she said. “And even if you think you’re not strong enough for it, you definitely are.”