Women Building Infrastructure Initiative

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 will be distributed through formula based grants to states and through competitive funding for new and existing programs. So far, more than $80 billion has been allocated to states for roads and highways, bridges, ports, airports and water systems. Additional programs are being rolled out for high-speed internet, electric vehicle chargers and energy grid upgrades. 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.

As state and federal agencies are gearing up to break ground on major projects funded by the BIL, tradeswomen’s organizations across the country have joined together, with support from the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Kellogg Foundation, to accelerate state and local efforts to increase women’s inclusion and equity in construction-trades jobs on these projects. Led by Chicago Women in Trades, the Women Building Infrastructure Initiative will bring together the leaders from the federal government who are administering funds from the BIL, including the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Energy, with tradeswomen led local or state based teams of key partners from industry and public agencies.  Teams will include public agencies that will let contracts for the infrastructure projects, unions, contractors, apprenticeship programs, community-based and workforce development organizations, and other interested stakeholders who will work together to create equity plans for infrastructure projects in their regions.

The initiative expects to grow the percent of women working in the construction trades and entering into and completing apprenticeship programs, and will work to promote policies and practices that ensure women and people of color find equitable, inclusive, and respectful working conditions. The teams will work 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).


Julie Su, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor Highlights Chicago Women in Trades at Good Jobs Summit