Building a More Inclusive Future: Empowering Women in Construction Through Equity and Inclusion

Vanessa Soto
Innovative Apprenticeship Outreach and Education Analyst

Over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is made up of women, yet women represent less than 4 percent nationally of the construction trades. The construction industry is critical to our nation’s and state's economy.  With a shortfall of building and construction trade talent, it’s never been a better time for women to enter these historically male-dominated construction occupations that can provide a pathway to high-paying careers and family-sustaining financial security.  To help women enter, grow, and prosper in the building and construction trades, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and its Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) awarded $25 million through the Equal Representation in Construction Apprenticeship (ERiCA) Grant since 2023. During Women in Construction Week 2024 (WIC), March 3 – 9, we highlighted some of the great things ERiCA grant awardees are doing to build bridges and create supportive environments for women to enter and thrive in construction careers.


In DAS’s commitment to amplify the efforts of diversity and inclusion of women into the building and construction trades, DAS also recently welcomed onto its apprenticeship trailblazer team its new Equity and Inclusion Apprenticeship Consultant, Lissette Cruz (Cruz). Cruz will be central to the outreach efforts with ERiCA grant awardees and will spearhead strategies to ensure women have equitable opportunities to enter construction apprenticeships.

Cruz’s career is deeply rooted in the building trades as a former apprentice/journeyperson Union carpenter and eventually a shop steward during her time at the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters. As an advocate of The Sisters in the Brotherhood, Cruz also was selected by the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters to be a traveling instructor and was designated by the Southwest Carpenters Training fund to create the first all-women’s pre-apprenticeship program to assist women who were considering becoming a union carpenter: Bridging Outstanding Opportunities with Tradeswomen Skills. (BOOTS).  The BOOTS program is a four-week pre-apprenticeship program designed to assist women who are considering becoming a union carpenter. BOOTS recognized the need for transferable accredited skills and implemented efforts for the retention and support of women in the trades. In this role, Cruz served as not only a trainer but also a mentor.

Through the collective efforts of DIR, DAS, ERiCA grant awardees, and newly onboarded DAS team members such as Cruz, for equity and inclusion in the building and construction trades, we move a step forward where women in construction are the norm.

Vision for the Future:

In a brief interview with Cruz, she shared, “Coming into this role, I have been re-energized with purpose. I am excited to be part of an exemplary team. I think that you have to create the person you want to be, and really believe you’re that person.  Because when you believe it, other people will believe it as well”.

March 2024