On November 15th, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. Funding from the BIL is expansive in its reach, addressing transportation, energy and power infrastructure, access to broadband internet, water infrastructure, and more which is being distributed through formula based grants to states and through competitive funding for new and existing programs. The BIL is also critically important because of the high-wage jobs these projects require. However, women and people of color still find barriers in entering these sectors’ workforce. Without targeted efforts to ensure equity and inclusion, those who have been historically excluded may still find challenges to benefiting from these career opportunities. The BIL creates a unique opportunity to address the many barriers women and other underrepresented groups face in accessing and advancing in these careers. To do so, Chicago Women in Trades launched the Tradeswomen Building Infrastructure Initiative to accelerate state and local efforts to increase women’s inclusion and equity in construction-trades jobs on these projects.
The Initiative, with support from the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Kellogg Foundation, brings together tradeswomen’s organizations from across the country with the leaders from the federal government who are administering funds from the BIL, including the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Energy. Tradeswomen organization led teams are convening key partners from industry and public agencies in their local and state areas to create equity plans for infrastructure projects in their regions. Teams include public agencies letting contracts for the infrastructure projects, unions, contractors, apprenticeship programs, community-based and workforce development organizations, and other interested stakeholders.
The initiative expects to grow the percent of women working in the construction trades and entering into and completing apprenticeship programs, and is working to promote policies and practices that ensure women and people of color find equitable, inclusive, and respectful working conditions. The teams are seeking to leverage expanded resources to support pre-apprenticeship training and other essential supportive services, and provide guidance to project owners, public agencies, apprenticeship programs, unions, and contractors on best practices to increase opportunities for women to be prepared to enter and succeed in the skilled trades. The initiative will promote tradeswomen retention with mentorship, peer support, guidance and skill building to advance in skilled trade occupations. The Initiative is guided by the goals set forth in the Framework for Promoting Workforce
Equity and Inclusion for Infrastructure Projects (Framework for Infrastructure Workforce Equity).
- Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW), New York City
- Heartland Women in Trades, Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS
- Building Pathways, Boston MA, working with both city- and state-based agencies
- Women in Nontraditional Careers Initiative (WINC), Philadelphia PA
- Texas Women in Trades, San Antonio, TX
- West Virginia Women Work, Morgantown, WV
- NOLA Women in Skilled Trades and Manufacturing Careers, New Orleans, LA
- Vermont Works for Women, Winooski, VT
- Tradeswomen Inc, Bay Area, CA
- Central Ohio Women in Trades, Westerville, OH
- Chicago Women in Trades, working with both city- and state-based agencies