NABTU hosts TWBN March Webinar

March is Women’s History Month, and NABTU, along with NABTU’s Tradeswomen Committee, hosted a Winter Webinar for tradeswomen.

Held on the morning of March 5, the Tradeswomen Build Nations Winter Webinar is one of two online events meant to take the place of last year's in-person TWBN event, which was canceled due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

The theme of the webinar was “Women Empowerment in Union Construction,”  and was a celebration of American Women in the trades. 

The webinar began with opening remarks by North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey, who told the viewers that tradeswomen are a top priority at NABTU.

“Your voices matter,” he said.

McGarvey then stressed how NABTU values diversity and equity as they continue to fulfill their express commitment of prioritizing inclusion, justice and belonging on all fronts. 

Besides McGarvey, Canadian Building Trades Union Executive Director Sean Strickland also address the event. 

“I’m proud of the work by our trades to improve inclusivity,” he said. 

“We will continue to attract and retain more women due to the work currently being done,” Strickland added. 

Sherly Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.org, provided a brief overview of her organization, which advocates for better public policies for women, and a more equitable workplace in order to make lasting change.

Once the opening speeches were finished, participants then joined one of three breakout panels.

Retention and Recruitment: Strategies for Tradeswomen to advance in the Trades was moderated by Mary Vogel, Executive Director of Building Pathways in Boston. The goal of this panel was to provide attendees with the opportunity to hear firsthand from successful government and industry female leaders on retention and recruitment, learn about their experiences advancing in the trades and what they accomplished after the trades.  

Panelists included Kelly Jenkins-Pultz, U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, Region 9 Administrator; Louise Medina, SMART Recruitment and Retention Committee Chair and  Business Manager of SMART Local 265; Allison Ziogas, a member of IBEW Local 3 in New York and Director of Labor Relations for Orsted Energy; and Gina Walsh, Deputy Director of the Mechanical Insulators LMCT. 

The panelists shared their unique experiences of entering their respective trades. 

Walsh discussed how she entered the trade during affirmative action. She realized building trades leaders were selective in who they brought into the union and she worked diligently to find tradesmen to mentor her on the jobsites.

“This is the first thing I tell apprentices,” Walsh said. “Find a mentor and let them help you.”

The panel discussed the obstacles facing women who seek nontraditional employment in the construction industry and solutions to potential industry barriers.

When Walsh began her career, she went two or three years without seeing another female on the jobsite. Oftentimes, she tried to be invisible on the jobsite. 

Today though, she feels women need to take a different approach and be visible.

“Own your job,” she said. “I hope the current generation of women learn from me and my generation.

Walsh stressed the importance of taking advantage of work opportunities. 

“I chased overtime,” she said. 

Additionally, Walsh noted if a tradeswoman is able, she should not be afraid to take jobs in rural areas. 

“The incentive to stay in the trades is to make a living wage,” said Walsh. 

The second breakout group was entitled Times They Are A-Changin: Legislative and Federal Updates and the Benefits for Tradeswomen. This panel discussed federal legislative victories for 2021 and the subsequent implementation goals on the horizon for 2022. It also educated tradeswomen on how these changes will positively impact them now and in the future. 

The final breakout group was A Culture of Care Series: Lean in Circles for Tradeswomen – Mentoring and Connecting Over Shared Experiences. It was moderated by Alanna Marklund, the UA Canada special Representative overseeing Youth, Diversity and Indigenous Relation, who is a Circle Leader for two Lean in Circles. This group talked about how Lean In Circles help tradeswomen gain practical skills for navigating bias at work and advocating for themselves and other women in the trades.

The next series of TWBN webinars will take place this summer under the same format, but with new subject matter. 

The Committee is currently planning this next event and more information will be posted once it is available. The summer webinar will lead up to the main event in the fall of 2022, as the TWBN Conference is set to convene in-person from Oct. 28-30 in Las Vegas.

The LMCT encourages you to watch or rewatch the Winter Webinar and look forward to your participation at the summer webinar. 

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