Massachusetts College Talks About Diversifying The ‘White, Male World Of Construction’ With Women

Smith College is hosting a panel advocating to get more women into the construction industry, after government estimates report approximately three percent of construction workers in the U.S. are female.

Organized by college professor Carrie Baker, the all-female Massachusetts college will host the panel discussion titled, “Only 3% are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” to try to get more women to join what has traditionally been a male-dominated profession. Baker teaches courses on gender, law, public policy, and feminist activism, including topical courses on sex trafficking, reproductive justice and sexual harassment.

Three local carpenters, along with a local businesswoman and a Smith College engineering professor will speak at the event.

“Women need to know that there are training pathways and job opportunities for them in construction, plus role models and supportive peers/managers when they pursue such work,” Smith College professor Susannah Howe said in an interview with The Republican. The panel will draw parallels between the lack of women in STEM and the female void that exists in the construction world, she noted.

There are significant challenges for women seeking to break into the male-dominated field of construction, the professor claims and is hopefully the panel discussion will encourage more women to advocate that construction companies hire them for projects.

There are close to 6.5 million construction workers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Following manufacturing, construction work is the second most fatal industry in America, a very likely deterrent to women entering the industry.

“Meet the pioneering tradeswomen who are organizing for equity and diversity in the field of construction,” the panel discussion description states. “They are on the frontline of a working-class movement of women and people of color fighting to open up the white, male world of construction.” The description also notes that currently only three percent of tradespeople in Western Mass and nationally are women.

The event will take place on Thursday and is free and open to the public. The Women and Gender Studies department and Smith’s Engineering Department are organizing the event.

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