When Fatima Ware finished her apprenticeship in sheet metal construction in 2016, she decided it was time for a change. Not for her, but for the construction business.
“I was the only person in the room who looked like me,” recalls Ware, who says she was the sole Black woman out of a thousand members in her union. “I realized that the sheet metal industry needed diversity.”
Ware started her own company, Cleveland-based WTD Mechanical LLC, where she serves as president, soon after finishing her apprenticeship. She describes it as an effort to “change the narrative” in the sheet metal business. WTD Mechanical specializes in ductwork installation.
Ware retained her journeyman card and still does construction work herself on occasion. For the most part, though, she manages her company and its four-person crew. WTD Mechanical is currently serving as a subcontractor on the massive MetroHealth Transformation development project in Cleveland.
Ware admits she faced a steep learning curve in starting her own business. “I bumped my head so many times because I just didn’t know things like what paperwork needed to be filled out,” she recalls. She credits industry mentors like T.H. Martin Inc. President Tom Martin and her involvement with SMACNA with helping her navigate the terrain of the sector.
Ware says she hopes the work she is doing now will encourage other black women to take leadership roles in the sheet metal industry.
“Going from just wearing your tools and installing ductwork to being an owner is a huge challenge,” she says. “I think the impact of my work will be to open avenues for other people so that I won’t be the only person in the room who looks like me.”