New York, NY – Tools & Tiaras Inc. is the pioneering nonprofit founded in 2017 by Judaline Cassidy, self-described feminist plumber, tradeswoman activist, speaker and chief visionary officer of Tools & Tiaras Inc. LaborPress was fortunate enough to talk to Cassidy and find out more about the unique organization, its mission, and the inaugural silent auction benefitting girls interested in the skilled construction trades, STEM and life skills.
LP: What inspired you to start Tools & Tiaras?
JC: As a union plumber in NYC, and a tradeswoman activist, I have devoted the last 25 years to fighting for equity for women in the construction trades. My mission is to bring long overdue change to an industry in which the number of women in the workforce has remained at 3% since the 1970s. To do that, I want girls to know that “Jobs Don’t Have Genders.” That’s why I started Tools & Tiaras in 2017.
Through the hands-on, mentoring workshops and summer camps we run for girls [ages 6-17], especially those in underserved communities, we are inspiring the next generation of tradeswomen. All of our programming is driven by tradeswomen leaders and field experts, and designed to expose girls to the skilled construction trades like electrician, carpenter, plumber, and auto mechanic, in addition to STEM and other fields in which women are still largely underrepresented. Our signature curriculum also helps girls develop invaluable T.O.O.L.S [Total Ownership Of Life Skills) that will serve them no matter what career path they choose. I do everything I do for the girls.
LP: In your estimation, how many girls and women have gone through the program?
JC: Well over 500, across our camps and monthly workshops, since our 2017 launch.
LP: Is there a way that they graduate?
JC: Girls are welcome to stay in our Tools & Tiaras program as long as they like, through age 17.
LP: How many have gone on to work in a trade?
Our organization was founded just 4 years ago, and we serve girls ages 6-17, with the majority of the girls being on the younger end of that range. So we don’t yet have quite enough time under our belts to have seen any of our Tools & Tiaras girls and young women enter the trades. We do, however, have a number of girls who have put themselves on a focused career path because of what they learned and experienced at Tools & Tiaras. To name just a few, Tanzira is now at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where she’s majoring in civil engineering with a minor in sustainability and a specialty in structural engineering. Samantha is attending Aviation High School. She’s studying to be an aircraft mechanic. Penelope now attends Energy Tech High School in Long Island City, NY, which is focused largely on engineering. In a school essay she wrote, “If it was not for Judaline and Tools & Tiaras, I would have not considered Energy Tech. Tools & Tiaras showed me that women can do anything. Since the moment I held the torch in my first Tools & Tiaras class [welding], I loved it. I saw other girls like me, and wanted to try something new.”
LP: Have any of the girls had the opportunity to explore opportunities at NEW – Non-Traditional Employment for Women?
JC: The girls we currently serve are a bit too young for that trajectory just yet. However, a number of our T&T girls’ mothers who have attended our workshops with them, have developed an interest in the trades and have gone on to NEW, after learning about it through our organization.
LP: It’s great that your organization now has its own space. How did that come about?
JC: For the last four years, I ran this organization out of the trunk of my car – every camp, workshop and program. Having a space of our own was critical to our sustainability, development, and growth. We reached this milestone in July 2021 with the support of a long-term, mission-aligned partner who believes in our work and wanted to directly support our growth. It’s been a game-changer for us.
I created this organization to give girls and young women a space in which to learn and grow, belong and be unique, tap their individual power and harness the power of sisterhood, find their voices and use them, explore jobs and access opportunities. Now, we finally get to welcome them into that space, a permanent space where we can mentor, inspire and challenge more girls and change more girls’ lives. It also allows us to serve the local community where our space sits by bringing opportunity, education, programs and events.
LP: Tell us about the inaugural silent auction and fundraiser, ‘Building A Stronger Foundation…Together,’ and about the companies that are supporting it by donating prizes.
JC: After opening our Tools & Tiaras world headquarters in Jamaica, Queens this summer, we immediately put wheels in motion to serve more girls and make an even greater impact.
Our inaugural silent auction and fundraiser – ‘Building A Stronger Foundation… Together’ – is a direct path to our continued expansion and growth because funding is the key to everything we do now, and into the future.
The silent auction kicked off on my birthday, November 6, and runs through this Saturday, December 4. It’s packed with incredible experiences, products from awesome woman-owned brands, made in the USA items, and more.
It’s such a great assortment because Tools & Tiaras has so many amazing partners like JetBlue, Emeline Hotel, OMEGA Institute, Milwaukee, Carhartt, Kodiak Boots, Boulder Bag, and RIDGID, who all stepped up for us by participating.
As of this morning, across our auction platform and other channels, we’ve raised nearly $72,600. So, we’re just $2,400 shy of hitting and exceeding our $75,000 goal. It’s very exciting, and we are truly grateful for all the support. Now we just need a few more generous folks to help us cross the finish line by December 4.
Bid by bid, donation by donation and brick by brick we are Building A Stronger Foundation… Together… for our girls!