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Lenore Janis, Who Broke Construction Industry Barriers, Dies at 86

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Lenore Janis, a power of nature within the New York Metropolis building trade who left hundreds of cracks within the concrete ceiling of a male-dominated enterprise, died on Jan. 31 at an assisted residing facility in Brookfield, Conn. She was 86.

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The trigger was problems of Covid-19, her son John mentioned.

Ms. Janis was a founder and the longtime president of Skilled Ladies in Development, which began as a small, all-volunteer nonprofit and have become, below her management, a networking powerhouse for tens of hundreds of girls making an attempt to navigate a profession path that may appear purpose-built to exclude them.

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A shrewdly inventive organizer with a cigarette-rasped voice, Ms. Janis, by all accounts, did extra than simply present mentoring alternatives and meet-and-greet classes — although she did loads of that, too.

Understanding that many offers in her trade have been made on the golf course, she ran clinics to show ladies how to play the game. She despatched executives into excessive colleges to recruit ladies who would possibly in any other case have by no means considered a life in building. And he or she doled out tales to younger members of her commerce group, classes drawn on a life spent pushing open limitations.

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“She would take you below her wing and provides recommendation you wouldn’t hear from anybody else in New York,” mentioned Barbara Armand Kushner, the chief govt of the Armand Company, a project-management agency in Manhattan.

Lenore Janis was born on March 4, 1934, in Manhattan. She grew up in White Plains, N.Y., the place her father, Harry, owned the White Plains Iron Works. Her mom, Gussie (Weinstein) Janis, was a homemaker.

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She studied theater at Bennington Faculty, however left after her sophomore yr to marry Herbert Fishman, an engineer. The couple moved to Indiana, the place she enrolled at a neighborhood Methodist school. She was depressing.

“After a semester sporting long-sleeved modest clothes,” she wrote in a Bennington alumni publication in 2005, “making an attempt to decipher Edmund Spenser’s ‘Fairie Queen’ (all of the naughty strains blacked out by the varsity censor) and avoiding the nice non secular people who wished to ‘save’ me, I headed again East.”

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A divorce decree in hand, she graduated from the College of Connecticut in 1956 and moved to Manhattan in the hunt for work. She received a job with a public-relations firm however was shocked by what she discovered: A lady within the workplace advised her that the one technique to transfer up was to simply accept much less pay than males doing the identical job.

Ms. Janis was married and divorced two extra occasions. Along with her son John, she is survived by two grandchildren. One other son, Peter, died in 2011.

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After leaving public relations, Ms. Janis labored in off-Broadway theater. Within the late Nineteen Sixties she created and ran the Jewish Heritage Theater for Kids on the 92nd Road Y in Manhattan.

Newly divorced and elevating her sons on her personal, she moved again to White Plains in 1972. Her father died quickly after she arrived, and she or he and her brothers, George and David, took over the household ironworks (George died in 2016, and David died in 2020). Instantly she was working 60-hour weeks, a lot of it spent driving across the New York area to go to building websites.

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“I used to be Janey-come-lately to this trade and discovered on the job,” she mentioned in a 2004 interview. “For years I used to be the one girl attending numerous trade features and infrequently mistaken for somebody who should be within the inside ornament enterprise.”

In 1979, impressed by the office positive factors made by ladies within the Nineteen Seventies, she based Period Metal, named after the Equal Rights Modification, which was then awaiting ratification by two-thirds of the states.

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Ratification by no means occurred, and because the new decade started, Ms. Janis discovered that operating a building agency as a girl was more durable than she had anticipated. Banks wouldn’t mortgage to her, and regardless of her years of expertise, she couldn’t get entry to the again rooms the place builders, bankers and building executives — nearly all of them males — made their offers.

She and 11 different ladies based Skilled Ladies in Development in 1980 with the aim of lobbying metropolis and state governments to open the contracting course of to companies owned by ladies — one thing the federal authorities had already carried out below President Jimmy Carter.

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Their efforts paid off: In 1983 Mario M. Cuomo, lately arrived within the governor’s mansion, established an workplace to make sure that extra building contracts would go to corporations in New York State owned by ladies.

In 1986, Mayor Edward I. Koch of New York appointed Ms. Janis director of the town’s Bureau of Constructing Administration, the primary girl to carry the job. Amongst her accomplishments was the set up of girls’s locker rooms in Division of Sanitation amenities. She later oversaw particular initiatives within the metropolis’s Workplace of Development below Mayor David N. Dinkins.

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Ms. Janis left metropolis authorities in 1994 and was named president of Skilled Ladies in Development the subsequent yr. She retired in 2015, not lengthy after her 81st birthday.

At present there are extra ladies working within the trade than ever earlier than, each within the boardroom and on the development web site. However progress has been gradual, and for the reason that pandemic hit there was a steep drop within the feminine work power.

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Nonetheless, Ms. Janis remained optimistic about her gender’s place in an trade that had, over time, begrudgingly made room for her.

“In 1980, a girl couldn’t hope for a well-paying, managerial job within the building trade,” she said in 2014. “Ladies making an attempt to run building companies have been shunned by banks and suppliers. Attitudes have modified: When a girl steps into the room, she could even be pleasantly shocked to search out she’s not the one girl on the desk.”

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