ERA Launches Women Rebuilding America Initiative with Tradeswomen Project

May 1. 2024


For Immediate Release
May 1, 2024

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Jess Eagle
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The Initiative aims to ensure women have equal access to construction jobs created by $4 trillion federal infrastructure investment 

(SAN FRANCISCO) — Today Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) announced a significant expansion of its new Women Building America Initiative through a formal partnership with the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues. This collaboration involves integrating the Taskforce as a project at ERA, amplifying efforts to ensure equitable access for women to the new jobs in the construction trades emerging from the federal government’s $4 trillion investment in infrastructure, which will create millions of jobs.

“The best anti-poverty strategy in the world is a good job,” said Melvina Ford, Equal Rights Advocates’ National Legal Director. “By giving women equal opportunities to jobs in high-paying, union-protected trades fields, we can help families across the country escape poverty through access to dependable, skilled careers.”

Construction trades jobs include pipefitters, iron workers, electricians, painters, operating engineers, and other skilled labor roles that typically do not require a college degree but often pay well and remain highly male-dominated. Advocates say the Initiative will provide pathways to stable, high-paying, union-protected jobs for U.S. women, who still are paid an average 78 cents per $1.00 paid to the average man. Equitable access to jobs in male-dominated trades will help address what’s known as “occupational segregation” — referring to the fact that women are often segregated into lower-paying fields such as retail, service industry, teaching, and childcare — which accounts for an estimated 30-40% of the U.S. gender wage gap. Women currently make up two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers.

“Tradeswomen across the country have shared stories about how their jobs have changed their lives,” said Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates. “Access to high-paying, stable careers have helped women escape abusive relationships, pay off crippling debt, ensure their families’ health and other basic needs are covered, and save for the future.”

ERA has been a leader in opening male-dominated trades fields to women—particularly women of color—since 1974. From advocating for equitable access to apprenticeships, which are a key pathway to jobs in the trades, to providing legal representation to tradeswomen facing discrimination and harassment on the job, ERA has fought to break down barriers to women obtaining and sustaining trades jobs. After more than a decade of partnering with and supporting the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, ERA brought the Taskforce on as a project to help build even greater power among the Taskforce’s 400 individual members and 30+ organizational members across the U.S. The collaboration aims to ensure tradeswomen have a seat at the table and their voices and experiences are centered in policy discussions and implementation.

“I’m thrilled that the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues is taking this step, to be a formal partner with Equal Rights Advocates,” said Connie Ashbrook, Co-Chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, retired Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen, and a retired elevator constructor with Local 23. ERA has been a champion of tradeswomen for decades, and this partnership will enable the Taskforce to gain needed resources to strengthen our ability to improve access and working conditions for tradeswomen.”

The project will focus on supporting tradeswomen in organizing and advocating for public policies that support their work, including creating more equitable opportunities to apprenticeship programs, which are a key pathway to entering jobs in the construction trades.

We are on a mission to make the construction industry a diverse, safe, equitable, accessible, and inclusive place for today’s tradeswomen while preparing a better pathway for future generations of girls who are on their way. We are excited to forge ahead, with in formal collaboration with ERA,” said Janelle DeJan, Co-Chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, an IBEW Local 130 Electrician at New Orleans Aviation Board, and Partnerships Manager and Instructor at NOCC Building Trades Industry. This is an advancement in our work to make the industry a place where tradeswomen want to work and where they can thrive.”

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