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.