Washington, DC – Over 1,600 tradeswomen representing various crafts in the building and construction industries attended the 2017 Women Build Nations (WBN) conference the week of October 17th in Chicago. Raising awareness and building support for tradeswomen was a key goal of the event. The conference provided woman in the construction industry a platform to address every day challenges and learn about opportunities to advance their careers. It offered specific workshops on topics of concern to woman in the trades.Course topics included recruitment and retention, leadership development, safety, politics, policies affecting tradeswomen and issues beyond the tools.
The Iron Workers (IW) took center stage at the conference with its groundbreaking paid maternity leave benefit and the recently trademarked “Be that One Guy” campaign to raise awareness about adversities tradeswomen experience based on gender.
The Ironworkerss introduced the first-ever paid maternity leave benefit in the industry with six months of pre-delivery and six to eight weeks of post-delivery paid maternity leave. It was a breakthrough for all tradeswomen and a giant leap forward in the movement to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace. At the event, Bridget Booker, ironworker from IW Local 112 in Peoria, Ill. Shared her tragic story of trying to hide pregnancy in fear of losing the job, having a miscarriage as a result and how her story inspired the groundbreaking paid maternity leave benefit.
“It’s bittersweet for me because I wish the paid maternity leave benefit had existed before and prevented my tragic experience but I’m so happy for my ironworker sisters who will never have to hide their pregnancies in fear of losing their jobs anymore,” said Bridget. “It feels great to know that my story inspired that change for them”.
“Bridget’s story tugged at my heart and I couldn’t just overlook the issue of our ironworkers having to sacrifice their family lives and put their unborn children at risk,” said IW General President Eric Dean. “I brought it to our board of trustees and we all agreed that it’s not only the right and morally responsible thing to do but also a good way to recruit and retain ironworker women.”
“We are always looking for things a good union and an employer association should do to improve diversity and inclusion, and providing our ironworkers paid maternity leave made sense morally and economically,” said CEO of Ben Hur Construction and Co-Chair of IMACT Bill Brown.
The WBN conference is an important catalyst for progress and positive change in the construction industry and continues to be the national platform for all tradeswomen.