Though Southern High School has a separate Construction and Architectural Design Academy within the school, few female students end up participating.
But the field can be rewarding and lucrative. Lisa Pineiro, CEO of
Technical Services Inc., wants to encourage female students to explore
Pineiro (pictured here) has recruited more than a dozen Southern cheerleaders to spend the next three Thursdays learning how to use hand tools in carpentry.
Once they complete their basic training, they'll assemble playground equipment for a Habitat for Humanity house next month.
Pineiro, who lives in Bahama, says if other students see the popular cheerleaders -- often the girliest girls at school -- to explore a field that's traditionally seen as a man's world, then maybe more young women will catch on.
Pineiro has been featured as a News & Observer Tar Heel of the Week in 2006. The story is below.
"She's blazing a trail for tradeswomen"
by John Murawski, staff writer
Oct. 1, 2006
DURHAM -- Lisa Pineiro bristles as she recites the low-life litany she's heard for years:
Construction workers have foul mouths and rocks for brains. Construction is a dead-end career. As a field for women, construction is the pits.
Pineiro, 32, is a hair stylist-turned-entrepreneur who has never taken a college course and knows the sting of that social stigma.
The prejudices are not only wrongheaded, they're downright harmful, says Pineiro, the founder and president of Technical Services Inc., a construction agency in Durham. College is not for everyone, she says, and vocational skills are highly undervalued in our society. Because of this mind-set, she says, women are often who are shut out of a viable career option.
Pineiro is her own evidence that women can succeed in construction. At her eight-year-old company, she's boss to her husband, Frank Pineiro, an electrical contractor, and to her father, Tony Armen, an accountant. She employs 105 men, ranging from laborers and skilled craftsmen to foremen, whom she assigns to job sites as clients need. In addition, she employs two women electricians.
Pineiro, a former high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, regularly takes her pep talk to students in Durham's public schools. She visits local classrooms to persuade middle-school students to embrace construction and other trades as a career. She's also recruiting the middle schoolers to the Construction and Architectural Design Academy, a program at Southern High School in Durham that's equivalent to a blue-collar magnet program.
"I talk to the girls and say, 'Do you want a man to screw in a light bulb for you? Do you want to depend on a man for everything?' " Pineiro explains. "The stereotype I would like to break is ... that women in construction are heavy-duty, hardy, redneck she-males."
Some middle schoolers stare blankly into space, she acknowledges; others twirl their hair around their fingers. But this year Pineiro felt great satisfaction when the first girl enrolled in the four-year program.
Vocational training, she preaches, is not just about hard hats, jackhammers and soldering irons. It could lead to a career in engineering, architecture or running a business.
"It's a talent, it's a career, it's an education," Pineiro says. "I just want to bring our industry back into the light."
As a volunteer, she not only recruits middle schoolers to the program; she also lines up guest speakers and visiting instructors for the students.
She's been mentoring, speaking and recruiting since 1999, when she was first asked to help develop construction programs in the school system. Pineiro helped create the one at Southern and sits on its advisory committee. Some say it couldn't run without her.
"We couldn't afford to pay her for what she's done," says Al Barnes, the work-base learning coordinator at the Durham Public Schools. "She coordinates, manages, arranges most of our speakers, taught students, helped recruit students."
Raleigh electrician Larry Saunders has worked for Technical Services Inc. from the outset. Last year, he spoke to seven classes about his work. He credits Pineiro with sticking with him through drug and alcohol addiction six years ago, a subject Saunders shares with the high schoolers during his presentations. He now oversees 20 men on a job for the company in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Through Technical Services, he has worked stints in Florida, New Jersey, Michigan and California -- chances he doubts he would have had without Pineiro's backing.
"A lot of the jobs I went to when I started I was the only black male," Saunders says. "And now I'm getting the opportunities."
Pineiro became a booster of vocational skills as a teenager studying cosmetology. At East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte she joined the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America and traveled to various schools in the state promoting the industrial arts.
She married at age 18 and moved with her husband to Germany, where he served in the military. She opened a hair salon in her apartment for servicemen's wives and women in the military.
By the time she moved back to the United States, she felt more worldly than some college undergraduates. She had traveled across Europe, visiting nine countries.
Starting a business
Her marriage ended back in the states, and she moved to Raleigh in 1997 as a single mom with a 2-year-old daughter. She took a job as an office manager for a construction staffing company. After less than a year, she decided she could run a similar business. She put $5,000 worth of office furniture on her credit card and got a $45,000 loan from her father, who borrowed against his house, to cover the first payroll.
Pineiro met her current husband, Frank, soon afterward. He managed an electrical contracting firm that was one of her early clients. They married in 2004.
Pineiro won't deny that male-dominated fields such as construction can be difficult environments. She has been subjected to unwelcome sexual comments. But she points out that many a profession was once dominated by males and closed to women before women broke into the ranks and changed the rules.
"I decided early in my career that I was either going to have a thick skin or I was not going to last," she said.
Those who use her company say they rely on Technical Services and agencies like it. Doug Moats, the human resources and safety coordinator at Bryant Durham Electric, has been using the company for about seven years to provide extra hands in short order.
"She is knowledgeable about the field," Moats said. "She sends out the quality of people that are required."
Staff researcher Susan Ebbs contributed to this report.
LISA ANNE PINEIRO
RESIDENCE: Bahama community in northern Durham County
BIRTHPLACE: Lorain, Ohio
SPOUSE: Frank Pineiro
CHILDREN: Sarah, 13; Darby, 11; Cody, 9; Peyton, 18 months
EDUCATION: East Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte, 1992
CAREER: Technical Services Inc., in Durham, president and founder, 1998-present; Edy's Grand Ice Cream, owned and operated two parlors in Raleigh and Clayton, 2002-2004; Armen Properties in Raleigh, bought and renovated homes, president, 1999-2000; E.T.S. Staffing, in Raleigh, office manager, 1997-1998