Women in Apprenticeship Training Institute

Paola Laverde
Public Information Officer, DIR

Outreach, recruitment, retention, and leadership development for women in skilled trades have been the mission of Tradeswomen Inc. (TWI), since its start in 1979. On June 16, the mission was on full display when TWI held its annual Women in Apprenticeship Training Institute at the California State University East Bay facilities in Oakland.

Women and men representing unions, pre-apprenticeship organizations, contractors, and workforce development programs gathered from around the state to hear from experts on issues important to women in the trades. Some of the workshops included Apprenticeship Childcare Models that Work, Contractor DEI Accountability, RISE Up Training, Apprenticeship Childcare in California, and during lunch, Tradeswomen Speak: Voices from the Field.

Leah Rambo, Deputy Director USDOL, Women’s Bureau
Leah Rambo, Deputy Director of the US Department of Labor (DOL) Women’s Bureau, was the keynote speaker. She recommended that women not limit themselves and be willing to expand their horizons. "Construction gives you an opportunity to get good-paying jobs to sustain yourselves and your families," she said, "However, being a woman and a mother/parent in the skilled trades is a challenge for many. During the plenary session focusing on retaining women in construction, presenter Ariane Hegewisch from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research spoke about the results of a survey called "A Future Worth Building: What Tradeswomen say about the Change They Need in the Construction Industry."

While the survey found that many women who work in the trades feel respected and enjoy their work, nearly half of the 2,635 respondents (47.7%) reported that they are held to a different standard than their male co-workers, face discrimination in many aspects of their work, and sometimes contend with unsupportive if not hostile work environment. More than a quarter of the respondents (26.5%) reported that harassment for being a woman is a constant issue with 23.6% saying they frequently face sexual harassment.

Tradeswomen share their stories from the field. From left to right: Ashley Butler, plumber; Tanisha Sanders, boilermaker; Brittney Paige, carpenter; Jessica Lee, electrician; Salena Durrell, moderator.
Those statistics came to life during the lunchtime panel Tradeswomen Speak: Voices from the Field. The four panelists all apprentices, representing various construction trades shared their stories of lack of respect, lack of support, harassment, and discrimination. Brittney Paige, a carpenter with Carpenter Local 22 stated that "because the men want me to fail, I’m striving to be the best carpenter I can be so in 5 or 10 years down the line when I’m a supervisor or superintendent I can say to them, remember me?" It was a sentiment shared by the other panelists who also said they were not going to give the men satisfaction of quitting.

Ariane Hegewisch, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, begins her presentation on A Future Worth Building - What Tradeswomen Say about the Change They Need. Construction
The survey results shared by Ariane Hegewisch also included the difficulties tradeswomen have finding childcare. The survey found that motherhood is common among tradeswomen. Half of the respondents (50%) reported having children younger than 18, and more than one in five of those (21.9%) with children younger than six. The survey found that more than two-thirds (69.3%) of the parents with children under 18 mentioned difficulties in finding childcare.

Assistance with finding and paying for childcare was the focus of the Apprenticeship Childcare in California workshop. The presenters were all members of organizations awarded the Equal Representation in Construction Apprenticeship (ERiCA) Grant and they shared how they are managing the funds they received. Annie McMonigle, Executive Director of the Apprenticeship Readiness Fund, a nonprofit of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, said the ERiCA Grants are an exciting opportunity. Her organization will be providing vouchers to qualified apprentices. Kathleen Barber, with the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (NJATC), shared that the funds will be provided to Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees and distributed to qualified applicants who will receive $833.33 a month for 12 months. The discussion also included how providing childcare could be considered a benefit by employers and used as an organizing tool by unions.

The TWI event proved to be eye-opening, inspirational, and energizing for participants who concluded the day knowing that the issues important to tradeswomen are being considered and worked on to ensure women in construction can continue contributing to building a better world for all of us.

June 2023