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Women’s History Month: Women In The Trades

For the last week of Women’s History Month, we are taking a look at women working in the trades. Trade jobs are good-paying union jobs and we want to make sure women can envision a future in this field.


One of the few, enduring icons we have of a woman working in trades is Rosie the Riveter. But Rosie the Riveter wasn’t just one woman—she represented women who went to work during World War II. Norman Rockwell’s Rosie for The Saturday Evening Post was a 19-year-old telephone operator from Vermont. Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, had an actual Rosie the Riveter named Rose Will Monroe.


The first union of working women was formed by tradeswomen in 1834 at textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. When bosses decided to cut wages, the women organized and went on strike. Their two strikes were defeated, but they paved the way for women to take their place in the labor movement.


Getting women into the trades is even more important now. A majority of the jobs lost during the pandemic were held by women. Union apprenticeships can help women on the path to economic recovery.


Apprenticeships lead to union careers with family-supporting wages in high-demand industries. Zandra John has had an amazing journey into the trades as a tile-setting apprentice in New York City.


North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) has the largest network of apprenticeship readiness training programs in the U.S. construction industry. More than 170 of these programs focus on recruiting and training women, people of color, and transitioning veterans to civilian careers.


NABTU also partnered with Lean In and Build Together to create Lean In Circles specifically for union tradeswomen mentorship and support.


Let’s build more pathways for women to get into the trades and create a new generation of Rosie the Riveters.

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