Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

“You can’t worry about diversity later.  It has to be on your mind at the start of the job.”

Projects abound at the many UMass campuses

Projects abound at the many UMass campuses

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At the University of Massachusetts (UMass), goals set for women on campus construction projects are not being met, so officials with both the school and local trade unions are seeking solutions.  State institutions are encouraged to employ 6.9 percent female workers and 15.3 percent minority workers on any campus project.  However, the construction sites at UMass currently average 2.4 percent women and 17.9 percent minority workers according to the Design, Construction, and Compliance working group.  

Speaking to The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, Maggie Drouineaud, compliance analyst for the University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA), said: “Most of the contractors are doing well with regard to minorities.  Trying to get more women in is the big thing now.”

The UMBA has begun to advertise at worksites, but onlooker simply do not think this will do the trick. Elizabeth Skidmore, a business representative and organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, asserted: “Waiting for women to show up is not going to get us women. We’ve been doing that for years.”

Skidmore believes part of the problem is “social pressure against girls and women going into these trades, who often have no support from parents or guidance counselors to pursue non-academic professions.”  She spoke as a representative of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters during the most recent meeting of the working group, which holds mandatory monthly meetings of contractors, union representatives, and members of the building authority to discuss employment progress.  

A Daily Collegian breakdown of the workforce on current UMass projects shows that the college is having some success hiring minorities and women, although they are below the standards set by the UMBA on several projects. 

The problem of not being able to recruit tradeswomen is not specific to UMass.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.9 percent of construction workers were women in 2014.

One bright spot for female construction workers relates to unionism. Women who belong to unions fare better in terms of wages and benefits, cutting into the gender pay gap by half.  Perhaps this is why, among other reasons, an August 2015 Gallup poll showed that women are the most enthusiastic in their support of unions.  

An effective strategy for combatting the hiring diversity problem is admitting it exists, and to what degree it is holding people back.  As Fiore Grassetti, business agent with the International Association of Ironworkers Local 7, said during the last meeting of the UMBA working group:

“You can’t worry about diversity later.  It has to be on your mind at the start of the job.  This is not a goal. These are requirements.”


One Comment on ““You can’t worry about diversity later.  It has to be on your mind at the start of the job.””

  1. Great story. One important clarification though. The UMass Projects that are under Project Labor Agreements are reaching and in some cases exceeding the hiring goals for women and minorities. That’s because they were included in the PLAs BEFORE the jobs started.

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