March 8, 2021
Contact: Erin Weber | (646) 719-7021 |

Washington, D.C. – A new policy brief, “Here to Stay: Black, Latina and Afro-Latina Women in Construction Trades Apprenticeships and Employment,” highlights that while the number of Black women apprentices grew by over 50 percent and the number of Latina apprentices nearly doubled between 2016 and 2019, Black and Latina women remain severely underrepresented (3.6 percent) in federally registered trade apprenticeships.

The brief lifts up the voices of early career tradeswomen and underscores the many benefits they gain from working in the construction trades. These benefits range from the intangible, like taking pride in the quality of their work, to the more tangible benefits of economic self-sufficiency and home ownership.

The authors find that at a time when Federal policymakers are finally getting serious about investing in infrastructure and jobs in construction are projected to grow at all levels, it is imperative that apprenticeship programs expand to include more Black, Latina, and Afro-Latina women. Because women in construction too often face hostility, apathy, or even well-meaning paternalism, many women apprentices are still not able to have the full range of work experiences needed to develop the skills they will need after their apprenticeship ends.

Women who do make it in the building trades are paid much higher wages than women in many other professions, including many professions that require higher levels of educational attainment. In 2018 the average weekly earnings for women in union construction were $1,134—higher than the median weekly earnings of women elementary and middle school teachers and much higher than women in many female-dominated occupations.
“Now is the time to get more women trained in well-paid, skilled construction jobs that provide benefits without requiring an expensive education or racking up student debt,” said report co-author Chandra Childers, PhD of IWPR. She added, “Apprenticeships are crucial to women’s economic security and mobility, and women apprentices should receive the full range of work experiences and job training necessary to ensure they are successful upon completion.”

Christina Barillas, a Journeywoman Plumber with Local 130 and Chicago Women in the Trades Board Member said, “On top of the challenges that all apprentices face, women of color apprentices are rising above additional challenges, including the isolation of being the only woman of color on many worksites and not getting enough working hours, but they should not have to.”
“There will not be a 1:1 replacement for jobs lost during the COVID-fueled economic downturn. Many women will have to enter new sectors. Education, training, and apprenticeships will be key in getting women back into the workforce,” said C. Nicole Mason, President/CEO, Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “We need to ensure pathways to higher wage jobs in growing sectors, such as construction and trades. We should also work to remove barriers to success and mobility for women in these sectors,” she added.

The brief includes promising policy solutions including employment targets and pre-apprenticeship programs for women, to get more women in construction jobs.

*This briefing paper—funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Grants with support from the Kellogg Foundation—is released to mark the National Association of Women in Construction’s Women in Construction Week 2021. The brief was prepared by Chandra Childers and Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and by Lark Jackson of Chicago Women in the Trades’ National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment.

**The briefing paper is based on 7 focus groups with unionized Black, Latina, and Afro-Latina women apprentices across the country.
***Journalists interested in interviewing women in the construction trades should contact Lark Jackson at CWIT

****IWPR recently released a related study that finds moving women in to technical trades and manufacturing jobs will speed the recovery and cut poverty in New Orleans.