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Inspiring Women in Construction through Coloring

When you picture a construction worker, Marquia Wooten might not be the person you imagine.

Marquia Wooten holding “Coloring Strength.”

“I’m petite, I’m a girly girl,” explains Wooten. “If I got on the bus right now, no one would think I operate heavy equipment.”

It’s that stereotype Wooten is trying to change with her new coloring book, “Coloring Strength.”

She designed the book to be a creative escape while also inspiring women of all ages that a career in construction is possible.

Wooten’s journey into the construction industry started in 2014. A single mother living paycheck to paycheck, she wanted more than a job, she wanted a career. She knew she had a lot of talents but didn’t know how to best utilize them. Then a friend suggested she check out ANEW‘s pre-apprenticeship program. Our office supports programs like the Regional Pre-apprenticeship Collaboration and ANEW. These program train people underrepresented in the construction industry with the skills and tools to move into leadership positions.

“We invest in in programs like ANEW because of the space they make for women-focused cohorts. That allows women to thrive and build their own community in a male-dominated industry,” says Stella Wayman, Strategic Advisor, Health Services and Construction at OED. “Our investments are intentional to building an equitable and diverse construction industry by empowering women to have an opportunity to earn good wages and benefits.”

“I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think it would be a good fit for me,” she says. It wasn’t until she found out her best friend’s mom was an electrician that she decided to try the program.

“Immediately when I got there, it just clicked,” she says. “The women that were there, it was just a bond right from the start. We pushed each other throughout the whole program.”

ANEW allows participants to explore the different types of work within construction, offering apprenticeships for iron workers, electricians, painters, operators, and more. It was seeing the breadth of career options that helped Wooten see herself in the construction industry.

“I realized I could actually do this,” says Wooten.

In the decade since, Wooten has opened her own construction cleaning business and is now a project engineer for a civil construction company. And now, she wants to help other women and people of color realize they, too can work in this industry.  

“You don’t have to be [physically] strong, you don’t have to look a certain way. This is really for anybody who has the right mindset,” Wooten explains.

Wooten colors in “Coloring Strength”

Wooten’s mother is the one that inspired the coloring book. Before she passed, Wooten says her mother used coloring as an outlet to deal with her anxiety. Last year, when Wooten was coping with her own anxiety, she thought about what advice her mom would give her and started looking for coloring books.

“I was looking around for construction books, but I wasn’t seeing anything I really liked. The ones I found weren’t very detailed; they didn’t speak to me,” says Wooten. So, she decided to make her own.

Working with an author, Wooten dove into the project. She spent every night after work designing the pages and details. She even recruited her children for help.

“I had my daughters come in and tell me what they like. I wanted them to feel part of it because I’m building a legacy,” she says.

When it came to the details, Wooten made sure it would always be obvious that the book was about Black women working in construction.

“You can color it orange, red, or purple, but you will know that it is an African American woman by the hair, the cheekbones, the eyes, the lips, all the things,” says Wooten. “I wanted to be intentional about making this first book for Black women.”

While she says the number one goal of the coloring book is to provide stress relief, that intention is clear in every page.

“I want this to encourage and inspire people that didn’t know these types of trades existed, that Black women were in this trade. And for the young kids to see someone who looks like them, because that matters too,” she says.

Wooten says her work to inspire women of color to explore opportunities in constructions isn’t just about breaking down stereotypes.

“We need new lenses, we need new thoughts, new ideas,” she explains.

Wooten holding up her book.

She says anyone interested in exploring the construction industry should explore a pre-apprenticeship program. Wooten says to make sure the program that make sure participants can be successful during and after the program.

She also recommends asking around. Like her, you could have a friend or family member who knows a lot about the business and can help you as you explore your options.

“If I can do it, you can do it too,” she says. “I love to say that because I went through a lot just getting into the industry, not knowing a lick about construction. Just believe in yourself.”

Wooten’s book, “Coloring Strength” is available for purchase online.

As part of the Future of Seattle Economy framework, the Office of Economic Development focuses on the development and growth of Seattle’s key industries, including construction. We invest in these sectors with the goal of expanding business growth development and to create pathways to low-barrier, high demand, family-supporting career opportunities.

Our office supports programs like the Regional Pre-apprenticeship Collaboration and ANEW. These programs train people underrepresented in the construction industry with the skills and tools to move into leadership positions. We are also investing in clean construction training. In partnership with the Office of Sustainability and Environment and the Office of Finance and Administrative Services, this investment will build more skilled construction workers from marginalized communities while positively impacting the clean energy transformation so vulnerable communities are not left behind.