We Can Do It!

Philly tradeswomen meet up to discuss ways to increase the participation of women in construction, manufacturing, transit, and other male-dominated careers 

Imagine that you are driving along the highway and traffic is suddenly diverted due to construction. Now, picture what those construction workers look like. What did you imagine? Men wearing hard hats, reflective vests, denim jeans, and steel toe boots? If you did, it’s not your fault. Society and culture have trained many of us to assume that these types of positions are held exclusively by men. 

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, fewer than one in twenty (3.4 percent) of construction trades workers in 2018 were women. Seeking to change this narrative are projects such as Women in Nontraditional Careers (WINC). WINC is a multi-stakeholder collaboration that supports, increases, and advances the participation of women in careers such as construction, manufacturing, and transit. This Philadelphia area collaboration leverages resources to increase and retain the number of women in male-dominated industries.  

During National Apprenticeship Week 2019, WINC called on tradeswomen across many industries in the Philadelphia region to come together and build a network of support around each other. The outcome? Twenty-one Philadelphia-area tradeswomen attending the first-ever WINC supported “Meetup” event. Among them were apprentices, journey-level workers, and self-employed tradeswomen. Women talked about how they got started in their trades and shared notable moments of their careers.  

There’s a saying that women must work twice as hard to get any recognition. Well, it still rings true, as one woman said that “loading an engine into a truck in front of a bunch of men” was one of the most memorable experiences early in her career.  

The meetup served not only as a safe space for tradeswomen to openly discuss their careers, but also as a place to commit to growing the participation of tradeswomen in WINC. Monthly tradeswomen’s meetings and a speaker’s bureau are now planned. 

Now, again, imagine that you are driving along that same highway where traffic was diverted due to construction. Our hope is that this time, you imagined at least one woman at the scene!  

Many thanks to partners at Chicago Women in Trades, SEPTA, and Philadelphia Works for organizing the meetup. To join this community of Philly-area tradeswomen or get involved in WINC’s other activities, email wincproject@philaworks.org or fill out the contact form at wincproject.org.