Women Are Building California

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Cari all smiles with her new pants!

We just wrapped up a busy weekend in Oakland, attending the 9th Annual Women Building California conference.  It was a whirlwind weekend in the Bay Area–between the conference and our stints at playing tourists in the big city. We were so happy to connect with some pretty darn tough, hardworking (and, we might add, very fun-loving) women.

This was our second appearance at the conference. Last year we made the trek all the way down to Los Angeles (and yes, in case you were wondering, it was a shock to us Montana gals!) to attend the conference and meet with all different tradeswomen. This statewide conference is unique in that it brings together all the different types of trades–from pile drivers to electricians–under one roof to celebrate, educate and inspire working women. In the trades, women only make up 2% of the workforce.

And last year, we were so thrilled to show these women that finally there’s a company that makes workwear just for them! And by women too! We had so many wonderful supporters, so at this year’s conference, it was incredible to reconnect with familiar faces and also meet new women working in the Bay Area. But, it was a true eye-opener on the status of our economy and job front. So many of these women are not working. They’ve been laid off in the last year. Quite a different one year makes. And, of course, these women are determined to not allow the recession to knock them down. So, these women are looking at other ways to stay engaged–they’re attending classes on green building and their positive outlook on the job front is guiding them into leadership positions with their unions. These women are smart, and talented and they know that in order to ride out this difficult time, they have to stay positive and stick together.

Fun times and friends at the reception

And we were more than impressed with the support they’ve shown Red Ants Pants for the past two years. As much as we hear on the news or read in the newspapers about the millions who’ve lost their jobs, sometimes it’s overwhelming to hear the tough news, but after a weekend spent around these women who’ve faced adversity in so many ways, and now to have lost their jobs, we’re confident it’s their attitude and strength that will rebuild the economy and most certainly with these women, rebuild California.

The conference took place during the day so at night, we took full advantage of exploring the city. And luckily, the conference ended early on Sunday, so our dear new friends Rachel and Robin played tour guide and showed us San Fransisco. We first met Rachel, an electrician, at least year’s conference. And not only is Rachel one hell of a fun lady to be a round, she’s also made a RAP first. Have you heard about our ‘Where’s Your Ant Challenge’? The ‘Where’s Your Ant Challenge’ refers to the single ant label sewn on each pair of pants. And the ant is sewn in a different location on every pair and if you find your matching ant on a women (or man) wearing their RAPs, then you get a free RAP t-shirt. As much as we love getting to know our customers, we also think it’s important that our customers get to know each other too. Connect, it’s a good thing.

Rachel showing off her matching ant

Well, Rachel found a matching ant. Just not with another person. But herself. Rachel loved Red Ants Pants so much that she bought a second pair and guess what? Yep, matching ant with her second pair.

Matching ants aside, Rachel and Robin were quite possibly the best tour guides and we ate and walked around the city, thankful that RAP has taken us to so many wonderful places around the country and introduced us to so many wonderful and beautiful people too! For two women who really, really enjoy small towns, we did manage to have a good bit of fun in Oakland and San Francisco!

And now, Tour de Pants rolls on north to Ashland, Oregon to meet with local farmers. See, work–either working with your hands in the dirt or pounding nails is a good, good thing.

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