About Us

Taskforce Leadership

Mission

The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues mission is to unite local, regional and national expertise and action to support tradeswomen and women in achieving access, opportunity, and equity in the construction industry, and other skilled trades occupations. The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues does this through promoting a federal public policy platform and advocacy initiatives which includes efforts at the national level to improve, enforce, fund, and promote best practices in apprenticeship, training, workforce development, career tech, nontraditional employment and job site equity.

Foundation of the Taskforce

In 2011, tradeswomen, allies, and advocates came together to form a coalition of organizations and individual members, including tradeswomen themselves, called The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, to address the lack of access, opportunity, and equity in the construction industry, and other skilled trades occupations. National women's organizations, Legal Momentum and Wider Opportunities for Women co-chaired the coalition in its inception in 2011 through 2014,then Legal Rights Advocates replaced Legal Momentum as co-chair. Chicago Women in Trades replaced Wider Opportunities for Women as co-chair in 2015. Oregon Tradeswomen replaced Legal Rights Advocates in 2016.

Key Taskforce Actions and Successes

Since its inception, the Taskforce has succeeded in organizing and building collaborations and raising the issue of equal opportunity in construction on a national level.

  • 2011: Taskforce meetings with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) resulted in the hiring of a staff member who specifically oversees changes to the OFCCP mega site initiative, field investigator training and changes in the way tradeswomen and non-profits can lodge complaints.
  • 2012:  After funding for the Women in Apprenticeship and Non Traditional Occupations (WANTO) Act was cut, Taskforce members and tradeswomen met with the Department of Labor and the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Not only did we succeed in getting WANTO funding restored, but the new two-year Solicitation for Grant Proposals (SGA) focused on collaboration and technical assistance.  Taskforce members won all three technical assistance grants awarded.
  • 2013: The Taskforce held a national roundtable on apprenticeship at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington D.C. attended by tradeswomen, Building Trades representatives, U.S. Department of Labor Representatives as well as representatives from National Civil Rights and Workforce Development Organizations.  The Office of Apprenticeship then asked the Taskforce to repeat the panel for the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Council on Apprenticeship.
  • 2014: The Taskforce, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO began their collaboration for Equal Opportunity in Construction with a letter to the Secretary of Labor which had strong repercussions throughout Washington DC. Tradeswomen voices were represented by the Taskforce at the White House Summit on Working Families and Tradeswomen Tuesday was started by Taskforce member Legal Momentum to collect tradeswomen stories.
  • 2015: The Taskforce hosted the first ACTION CLINIC at the Women Building the Nation conference which provided training in grassroots advocacy for tradeswomen. The Taskforce advocated for release of U.S. Department of Labor Equal Employment Opportunity / Affirmative Action apprenticeship regulations to be revised and released for public comment.  Provided recommendations to improve Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 3 Local Hire policies to increase access for women.  Provided recommendations to strengthen sex discrimination regulations in U.S. Department of Labor compliance.
  • 2016: The Taskforce won another victory in ensuring that WANTO (Women in Apprenticeship and Non-traditional Occupations) was refunded by Congress to continue to support equity, access, and opportunity for women in high-skilled, high-wage blue collar jobs! Through our grassroots advocacy and education, the Taskforce promoted strong and comprehensive recommendations to update the Equal Employment Opportunity regulations in Registered Apprenticeship, many of which the U.S. DOL incorporated in their final updates. The Taskforce encouraged programs and social media activities for the November 17 National Women in Apprenticeship Day. Between 2014 and 2016 over 90 Tradeswomen stories were collected by Legal Momentum, Equal Rights Advocates, and the Taskforce and are available on the Taskforce Blog.
  • 2017: The Taskforce and over 200 tradeswomen submitted comments to update the apprenticeship Equal Employment regulations which became effective January 18, 2017. Chicago Women in Trades and partners were awarded a Gender Equity Contract from the Department of Labor to increase the participation of women in apprenticeship through creation of the National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment.
  • 2018: Policy Platform completed. For the first time a research sub-group was created. A Research Caucus and Research Workshop were held at the 2018 WBN Conference. New research topics and challenges were discussed and four studies of relevance to women in the trades were presented.
  • 2019: Tradeswoman Vicki O’Leary wins 2019 ENR Award of Excellence. Vicki helped draft and implement The Ironworkers Union first of its kind maternity program and helped roll out a new anti-bullying and harassment program. Read more: April/May issue of The Ironworker. The TWTF was heavily involved in bills impacting equity and access in the trades; Emma Brennan, WANTO Project Manager at AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. (and former Oregon Tradeswomen staffer!) served on a panel in Congress on creating equity, opportunity and access through the Infrastructure bill.

TWTF Steering Committee Members

  • Connie Ashbrook, retired, Elevator Constructor Local 23 and Oregon Tradeswomen, Co-Chair
  • Lauren Sugerman, Chicago Women in Trades, Co-Chair
  • Jessica Stender, Equal Rights Advocates, Policy Committee Co-Chair
  • Meg Vasey, Tradeswomen Inc., Policy Committee Co-Chair
  • Rudy Mulligan, Carpenter Local 157, Tradeswomen Action Committee Co-Chair
  • LJ Dolin, Associate Safety Engineer for Elevators, State of California, Tradeswomen Action Committee Co-Chair
  • Shana Peschek, Construction Center of Excellence, Communications Committee Co-Chair
  • Danae Pouliot, Transportation Wireman, IBEW Local 11, Communications Committee Co-Chair

Join us!

Our coalition is always looking to grow and engage more tradeswomen, allies, advocate, and industry partners! To learn more, email us at [email protected]! Consider joining one of our working committees below:

  • The TWTF Monthly Membership Meeting is held the third Monday of every other month, times alternate between 3 pm Eastern/Noon Pacific and 6 pm Eastern/3 Pacific.To join the TWTF, please email us at [email protected] and we will send you the conference call information. If you are interested in volunteering for one of the active work committees below, please contact one of the co-chairs as listed below.
  • TWTF Policy Committee meets monthly via conference call. To join the committee, please contact Co-chairs Jessica Stender at [email protected] or Meg Vasey at [email protected].
  • TWTF Communications Committee meets every other month at various times via conference call. To join the committee, please contact Co-Chair Shana Peschek at [email protected]
  • TWTF Tradeswomen Action Committee meets monthly via conference call. To join the committee, please contact Co-chairs Rudy Mulligan at [email protected] or LJ Dolin at [email protected].

Taskforce Members & Partners

The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues is a coalition of tradeswomen organizations, tradeswomen, and industry partners that strive to achieve access, opportunity, and equity for women in blue-collar careers.

History of the Tradeswomen Movement

The National Task Force on Tradeswomen’s Issues has developed over the last forty years through organizing and activism on the part of tradeswomen and their allies. In 1964 for the first time Title VII of the Civil Rights Act declared that it was illegal to discriminate in employment (e.g. recruitment, hiring, promotion, firing) based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex. In 1968 Presidential Executive Order 11246 barred sex discrimination in employment by companies with federal contracts. These laws created a system for women wanting to join the construction industry to file complaints and lawsuits against contractors and unions. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) were established to enforce the laws and regulations.

But the government agencies were not enforcing the laws for women wanting to enter the construction trades and other well-paying skilled blue-collar jobs held by men. In the mid-1970s tradeswomen and women’s legal advocacy organizations brought a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Labor. Settled in 1978, the agreement established the goal for women of 6.9 percent of hours worked on federal construction projects and a 23 percent goal for female apprentices, as well as harassment free worksites; goals and guidelines that have been in place but not achieved to this day.

Following in the footsteps of black men, women lined up to apply for skilled trades apprenticeship programs and they pursued a wide range of strategies: legal, program, and organizing. They filed complaints of discrimination with federal, state, and local agencies and they went to court. They won access to training and jobs and expanded the definition of sexual harassment to include a hostile work environment which the vast majority of tradeswomen faced on a daily basis. Harassment included physical and psychological injury and in some cases death. But affirmative action came under political attack; enforcement budgets were cut and programs ended.

For support and advocacy, tradeswomen and advocates formed local organizations from Tradeswomen Inc. in California to Chicago Women in Trades in Illinois to Nontraditional Employment for Women in New York. Tradeswomen marched in parades, testified at hearings, built pre-apprenticeship training programs, attended union meetings, ran for elected office, and formed coalitions with lawyers, people of color, and LGBTQ communities. They were able to help establish training programs with grants from government agencies and foundations. They wrote books, started journals and newsletters, produced calendars and art work, participated in research projects, and began to blog and use all facets of the internet.

As isolated workers on all male crews, tradeswomen came together for meetings and conferences to share stories, problems, and solutions. Tradeswomen, Inc hosted the first national conference in 1983. Tradeswomen began to see the need for a national focus on public policy, legal strategy, and advocacy. Tradeswomen organizations across the country formed the national Tradeswomen’s Network in 1990 to address issues on the national level, but there was little funding or organizational structure. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) convened the first international union women’s conference in 1997 which developed recommendations for within the IBEW. The first union women’s building trades conference that received backing from a State Building Trades Council was convened in 2002, continuing annually in California until 2010. Tradeswomen Now and Tomorrow (TNT) was formed at the same time to take up the national issues, but again the tradeswomen organizations had little structure or support.

The California Building Trades Conference became a national tradeswomen conference in 2011, with support from tradeswomen organizations, individual unions, and the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). The Women Build Nations Conference continues today, hosting over 2,000 tradeswomen in Seattle in 2018. In addition to workshops on topics such as leadership, legal rights, and work family balance, the conferences contained programs on how to recruit and train a diverse workforce, as well as policy forums on current issues facing tradeswomen and the larger building trades labor movement.

Despite these efforts, women remained 3 percent of the construction trades workforce and the number of women and men in the trades declined dramatically with the onset of the 2008 recession.

*This brief history is taken from the work of Molly Martin and Brigid O’Farrell on The Tradeswomen History Media Guide and Presentation. Link to their full history coming soon.