According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up only 9.1% of the construction industry workforce, and most of these positions are as construction professionals in the office. Only 1.2% of trades workers are women. For women in the trades, however, the gender pay gap is narrower than in other industries: women earn (on average) 95.7% of what men earn, compared to the national average pay gap of 81.1%.
An upcoming full-length feature film, Hard Hatted Woman, documents the stories of five women working in union construction trades. The film connects their compelling personal stories to a broader movement of tradeswomen, labor organizers, and long-time activists uniting to keep these non-traditional doors open for women.
The film outlines specific challenges that women face in the industry, as well as the incredible connection and sense of belonging that they have to the industry. The film highlights the camaraderie that the women feel with their fellow crew members, as well as with other women across the trades.
The film also touches on what construction companies can do to support women in the industry (from Construction Business Owner):
- Ask women what they need. According to [Ambra] Melendez, the best place to start is by asking women on the jobsite if they have what they need. “Nobody really asks me that, and on the rare occasion they do, when I start telling them what I need, they look like they regret asking,” Melendez said. “When I say, ‘I need a harness that fits me better,’ and they start rolling their eyes and saying, ‘Eh, we’ll see how it goes,’ as if they want to wait and see if I’m still on the job a week from now before going through the trouble of finding me a harness that fits.”
- Help tradeswomen find mentorship and apprenticeship opportunities. Melendez said one of the biggest barriers to entry and to staying in the trades is a lack of mentorship and education once a woman has begun her career. “I’ve seen apprenticeship coordinators eye promising young men and set them up for success and foremen grooming guys on the jobsite. But unfortunately, it is few and far between that an experienced tradesman will take a woman under his wing,” Melendez said. “I was lucky—I had a few men who did that for me. Women need somebody who believes in their talent, too.”
Read more about the film from Construction Business Owner:
The film is still raising funds for its post-production costs. The National Association of Women in Construction is one of the funders of the film. Learn more:
Photo Credit: Hard Hatted Woman