Providing Research and Technical Assistance to Union Construction Partners on Recruiting and Retaining Tradeswomen
Today, Valentine’s Day, is the one year anniversary of the murder of Outi Hicks, Carpenter apprentice, killed by a co-worker on a construction site in Fresno, CA.
The article below from the New York Times discusses the connection between sexual harassment on the job and the concept of “manly jobs” or, as the author describes it, “blue-collar jobs that once scored a kind of manly trifecta: They paid a breadwinner’s wage, embodied strength and formed the backbone of the American economy.” This certainly describes the benefits of the construction trades today for both women and men–good wages, hard work and building communities.
But along with those benefits has come a long history of sexism and discrimination against tradeswomen. Outi’s fate is one story and most tradeswomen have endless and often horrifying stories of their experiences of being the only woman in a “hostile work environment.” [PGTI’s founding document, Unfinished Business, documents this history.]
Over the past decade, tradeswomen and their allies, with the support of their unions and industry leaders, have been transforming the construction workplace in Massachusetts. In Greater Boston, it is now nearly normal for women to not be the only one on a construction site and, when harassment does happen, tradeswomen’s formal and informal networks across the state provide resources to protect the women and even to confront the problem man.
And that is usually where the story begins and should end– with one sexist man with the bad attitude, the bully, the idiot. He starts it, the teasing, demeaning, touching, threatening. The woman knows she could lose her job or worse and lacks the power to stop it.
That is when the another tradesman, That One Guy, is needed. That One Guy who tells the idiot to it cut out. That One Guy who takes the woman aside to find out what is going on. That One Guy who will speak up for the woman if the story needs to go higher to a super or steward to get the bully to back down and shut up– or to lose his job. That One Guy stands up for the simple right of women to do their job with dignity and respect, the same as every other tradesperson on the site.
At the 2017 Women Build Nations Conference in Chicago last October, Outi Hicks was honored and the Ironworkers’ Union debuted their Be That One Guy campaign. It is another tool for making the work safe for women and reaching the goal of 20% women by 2020, a tool that should be used on sites and in training centers throughout the industry. The alternatives, embodied in the memory of Outi and spelled out in the article below, perpetuate not only the danger and discrimination of the past but also an image and reputation that has injured the entire building trades movement. For a stronger and unified building trades movement, sisters, #WeAreOutiHicks, and brothers, #BeThatOneGuy.
Thanks to the Building Trades Employers Association and the Building Trades Training Directors Association for hosting our February 8 webinar, “HOW AND WHY: Best Practices for Recruiting and Retaining Women to Joint Construction Apprenticeship.” In the 50 minute presentation, we review area best practices and suggest questions for JATC directors, staff and trustees. Upcoming revisions to the federal apprenticeship standards will require JATCs to rethink their Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies and reorganize their outreach, recruitment and selection practices. This can be an opportunity for JATCs to step up their recruitment of women and bring greater diversity to their apprentice classes and to the union workforce as a whole.
Click below to watch the webinar and contact us with questions, comments and requests for in-person technical assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Only the union sector can supply the tradeswomen of the future.”
–Brian Doherty, General Agent, Metro Boston Building Trades Council
We often describe PGTI as a “learning community.” At our open meetings every other month (the next meeting is at 4 PM on December 20), a group of people who share the commitment to increasing and retaining women in the trades but who come from many different places in the construction industry, exchange knowledge and expertise from their area of work and generate new ideas for moving women forward in the industry. These ideas get integrated into our best practices document, Finishing the Job, and are incorporated into our Technical Assistance Workshops. A recent lesson has emerged from many discussions over time: Think Women First!
As industry stakeholders integrate new ideas into their business practices, too often women are part of a longer list of diversity requirements. When we begin with other categories such as “minority,” veteran or resident, the population that is targeted is usually male. By default, women become the last category. But women are veterans and residents and at least half of the women entering the industry in Massachusetts are women of color. When contractors and apprenticeship programs target women first, they are very likely to fulfill two or more categories of workforce requirements. In addition, of course, women are the most disadvantaged group in the construction trades. We are aware of only one project in the Commonwealth that has ever reached any federal, state or municipal target. The best practice for increasing and retaining women in the trades is think women first and put women at the top of the list. For outreach and recruitment, put women first. For hiring and referrals, put women first. And for layoffs, put women last.
Connecticut Building Trades launch pre-apprenticeship for women
The Connecticut Building Trades have launched the latest Building Pathways Pre-apprenticeship Program to bring more women into the trades. PGTI will be conducting diversity training for participants in August. Check out their FB page, Building Pathways CT to see their first cohort of students as they progress.
Summer Camps introduce girls to the trades
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is hosting a Girls Construction Camp in Kansas City. Can we get this in Massachusetts?
Outreach to women in Boston’s neighborhoods
NCTE Pipeline Navigator Kate Harrison met this mother/daughter Laborers team, Letitia and Jasmine McNeill, while tabling at the Harmon Street Job Fair.
Our goal is 20% tradeswomen by 2020.
Recently one of PGTI’s co-convenors, Liz Skidmore was interviewed for an article in BisNOw, a national real estate development journal. The article discusses progress PGTI and partners have made in the fight to recruit and retain womena nd people of color in the construction industry. It highlights the progress in construction apprentice programs in increasing both the number and the percent of female apprentices in Massachusetts. “Women in construction apprentice programs in Massachusetts leaped from 180 in 2012 (4.2% of all active apprentices) to 473 (6.9%) in 2016.”
PGTI’s work with the MA Gaming Commission and the UMass Building Authority are prime examples of public developers actually creating a diverse workforce for their construction projects. BisNow reported that the article was its top viewed piece the day it was posted, and continues to have very high readership (54,000 in the first four days). Read the full article here.