by Emily Langner
The Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI) has outlined 13 strategies for increasing gender and racial diversity on construction sites. In addition to protecting labor agreements, establishing a comprehensive reporting and monitoring system, and imposing fines on subcontractors that don’t comply with their contracts, two of the strategies for diversifying the industry appear strikingly straightforward: Prioritize diversity and hire more women.
While it may sound easy, and Massachusetts is actually ahead of the curve when compared to the national average, the challenge is one that requires well-planned and well-executed solutions, and is definitely a team effort.
The Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity’s (NCTE) campaign, Build a Life That Works, is a Massachusetts outreach and marketing campaign designed to raise awareness about opportunities for women in the union building trades. Jordana Monteiro is the outreach coordinator for Build a Life That Works and says the first step is showing women that this is a viable career path for them. According to Monteiro, one important function of the organization is to “help women recognize that this work is something they are capable of doing, and that there are already a lot of women doing it.”
The NCTE does this by hosting Tradeswomen Tuesday events every month in Boston and Springfield. These info sessions are an introduction to the industry and a chance for attendees to talk with other women already working in construction about their experiences onsite, what hourly wages they can expect, and the variety of jobs available. The sessions are open to anyone and, with no prior registration required, are a great opportunity for women to discover if a career in construction is right for them.
Monteiro is also the case manager and outreach coordinator for Building Pathways, an organization that creates opportunities for low-income area residents to access and prepare for building trades apprenticeships and family-sustaining careers in the construction industry. Building Pathways offers a free six-week pre-apprenticeship program and has a goal of 50% enrollment of women in its classes.
The program prepares students for an upcoming apprenticeship. Students learn the history of labor and construction, receive their OSHA 10 and CPR certifications, receive hands-on experience and case management on issues such as childcare, transportation, housing, healthcare, and financial and legal services. Monteiro considers the course the first step for someone who is serious about entering the construction industry.
Monteiro says an important part of the pre-apprenticeship program is the diversity training it provides to all who enroll. “Learning the history of construction is important so people can understand why incorporating women is so important,” she says. “Another great part of Building Pathways is that we’re teaching women and men together. They grow together, they love and care about each other and support each other, and want to see each other succeed. We’re trying to get these groups out into the field to be the leaders and to bring this message of accepting and supporting each other, and showing others the importance of having that diversity.”
Building Pathways and NCTE are giving women the knowledge, the tools, and the support to succeed in the construction industry. They work to empower women and give them a path into a rewarding career that provides job satisfaction, financial stability, and the flexibility to still care for their families. Together with the PGTI, they are working toward the goal of having 20% women in the building trades by 2020.
Monteiro says, “There’s really nothing a woman can’t do. It’s important to make sure they are educated about the many different career options that exist in construction, and to ensure that the opportunities are made available to them. If they will take that leap of faith and believe in themselves, we’re always going to make sure they have the support they need to succeed.”
Emily Langner is the associate editor at High-Profile.