Building Representation in the Trade: Gina Yiantselis’ Path as a Sister in the Brotherhood

March 28, 2024

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (EAS Carpenters Union) is featuring Gina Yiantselis, Field Engineer for LF Driscoll and part-time Instructor with Carpenters’ Apprentice Ready Program (CARP), to spotlight her career journey and the prominent role she plays in shaping the next generation of carpenters.

After following the traditional – and expected – four-year college career path, Gina Yiantselis earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Upon graduation, she tried out a few different positions, but each one left her unfulfilled. The reality of sitting in an office, staring at a screen all day, cemented her craving for a hands-on and physically engaging day-to-day work experience.

She eventually couraged up enough confidence to research regional carpentry training and stumbled upon an article about the Sisters in the Brotherhood (SIB) – an initiative to support female members in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) by providing assistance in obtaining craft training and leadership skills. Yiantselis contacted the featured woman in the article, Layla Bibi, EAS Carpenters Union Council Representative and Local 158 Union Carpenter. Two days after their initial conversation, Yiantselis attended an information session about the Carpenters’ Apprentice Ready Program (CARP) – a pre-apprentice program that introduces the basic principles of carpentry to build the technical and practical skills necessary for acceptance into their local registered carpenter apprenticeship program. Soon after, Yiantselis joined the 10-week CARP program, followed by a four-year apprenticeship. Following her graduation, she worked as a Project Manager for a signatory contractor company and now works as a Field Engineer for LF Driscoll and was recently hired as a CARP part-time instructor where she excites and empowers pre-apprentices just as former mentors have done for her.

Without that initial phone call with Layla Bibi, Yiantselis believes that the tiny voices of doubt in her head would have won. She would have spent her career job-hopping and daydreaming about what life would look like if her day-to-day was filled with hands-on work. To her (pre-carpenter self) surprise, her work days are now full of excitement and meaningful work that gives back to those in her community.

For those who are looking to enter the field, Yiantselis recommends they get out of their comfort zone and stay true to what they want to pursue – not what those around them want them to pursue. She acknowledges how intimidating it can feel to even accept an interest in construction as a profession. There are many misconceptions about the building trades– especially as it relates to women in the workforce. Reflecting on her experience, Yiantselis can’t emphasize enough how welcoming and supportive her male counterparts have been – whether in her CARP cohort, apprenticeship, or job sites. From her experience, many are eager to see more women in the trades; not just because they want to see diversity numbers increase, but because they want to see a difference in the industry that comes from diversity.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yiantselis is part of just 10.8% of women in the construction industry. The EAS Carpenters Union works to increase diversity in its union through SIB and CARP, and most recently began an all-female CARP cohort in Pittsburgh to support their local women in earning a living wage, accessing health care and retirement benefits, and continuing their education and training for career advancement.