College panel to call for more women in 'working class jobs'

Smith College is hosting a discussion this week on “diversifying” construction work in response to the fact that only only three percent of construction workers are women.  

Only 3% are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” is organized by Smith College Professor Carrie Baker, and will feature a panel discussion among three local carpenters, a local business woman, and a Smith College engineering professor.

"Meet the pioneering tradeswomen who are organizing for equity and diversity in the field of construction," the event description states. "They are on the frontline of a working-class movement of women and people of color fighting to open up the white, male world of construction."

[RELATED: Frat’s construction-themed party called ‘racially insensitive’]

"Working class jobs that give opportunity—training, livable wages, and benefits—are in short supply in our country," it adds. “Currently only 3% of tradespeople in Western Mass and nationally are women. Come meet some of the women leading this movement.”

In an interview with the local newspaper, Smith College Professor Susannah Howe said the event was geared towards advocating for more women in construction, drawing parallels between the construction field and the lack of women in STEM.

Howe noted that there are “challenges for women breaking into male-dominated fields like construction,” and that she hopes to encourage people “to advocate for and hire more women on construction projects.”

[RELATED: Prof: Efforts to recruit women for STEM ‘may be backfiring’]

“Women need to know that there are training pathways and job opportunities for them in construction, plus role models and supportive peers/managers when they pursue such work,” Howe added.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 6.5 million people—97 percent of them men—work in construction on any given day. Because of an increased risk of falling, electric shock, and other injuries, construction work is the second most fatal industry in America, after manufacturing.

Campus Reform reached out to Smith College and the professors involved for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Lisa Clauson, who is listed as the point of contact for information about the event, declined to comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen