Research will Address How to Increase Women’s Participation and Retention in These Male-Dominated Industries

Contact: Lea Woods,, 202-785-5100

Washington, DC – The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) was recently awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve retention and advancement for women in construction and manufacturing fields. These jobs can provide family-sustaining earnings that do not require a four-year college degree and are accessible through ‘earn-as-you-learn’ apprenticeships.

While there have been modest improvements in recent years, particularly in cities with women-focused pre-apprenticeship programs, fewer than five percent of skilled construction jobs are held by women. Through research and collaboration, IWPR will identify factors that prevent women from thriving, as well as conditions that support their retention and advancement.

“Women’s underrepresentation in these well-paid technical and trade jobs is striking, and a substantial contributor to the wage gap and women’s higher rates of poverty,” said Ariane Hegewisch, IWPR Program Director for Employment & Earnings, who will spearhead the project. We have made some progress with improving women’s entry to these jobs. Yet, too often, once they enter, women do not stay,” said Hegewisch.

The grant will allow IWPR to partner with a network of women-focused pre-apprenticeship programs and the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues to collect data, share knowledge, and build capacity on how best to support women in these jobs. The grant will additionally allow IWPR to focus on New Orleans – a region with substantial employment opportunities, but little infrastructure to support women’s entry to good trade and technical jobs.

Director of Training for Sheet Metal SMART Local 28 Leah Rambo, who is the co-chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues and the advisory board for the project, says, “I am very excited to be part of this project. This project will help to show the diversity of women working in the trades, and make sure that our experiences are counted. As an industry, we invest a lot in each worker; we cannot afford to lose them because our policies do not match the 21st-century workforce.”

In the current economic and demographic environment, there are increasing opportunities for initiatives that improve gender diversity in well-paid middle-skill jobs in construction and manufacturing. Many employers report difficulties filling vacancies in these fields, and industry experts expect these “worker shortages” to worsen, given the pending retirement of many skilled workers. As such, businesses will face economic consequences if they do not implement strategies to attract and retain women in these fields. Key industry stakeholders, such as the Association of General Contractors and the Manufacturing Institute, are recognizing the need to improve diversity in their industries, and the for new tools and practices for promoting gender diversity in middle-skill trade and technical jobs.

“To achieve equity in the trade and manufacturing occupations, employers, contractors, community-based training organizations, unions, and other stakeholders need to see the data. They also must hear from the voices of women on their employment experiences in these fields,” said Tameshia Mansfield, Program Officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Additionally, regions without an infrastructure of support for women in non-traditional occupations – such as New Orleans – need technical assistance, support, and convening opportunities to put that infrastructure in place. We hope that IWPR’s research and partnerships with tradeswomen, industry, and communities will accomplish that.”

About the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. We are the leading think tank in the United States, applying quantitative and qualitative analysis of public policy through a gendered lens.

IWPR advances women’s status through social science research, policy analysis, and public education. We develop new policy ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, and promote sound policy and program development. Our work also helps to change minds and improve the practices of institutions. IWPR operates on the principle that knowledge is power and that social science evidence based on strong data and analysis, compellingly presented and systematically disseminated, makes a difference in moving public policy. For more information, please visit

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. WKKF is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. For more information, visit