Oregon apprentice line worker Jennifer Smith’s recent struggle to receive her journeywoman card has focused attention on a recurring complaint of many tradeswomen around the world. Women interviewed by ENR say the issue goes beyond harassment at worksites. Their complaint: They are being held out of the construction industry.

“Women have remained 2.5% of the construction-trades skilled workforce for the last 30 years,” says Melina Harris, a Carpenter’s Union Local 1797 member in Renton, Wash.

In many places on the West Coast, apprenticeship programs are seeing 12% female enrollment, says Harris, also president of Sisters in the Building Trades (SBT) of Seattle. However, she says, “Retention rates are still minuscule after decades of training women in these jobs.”

Francine Moccio, former director of Cornell University’s Institute for Women and Work, compared the percentage of minority men and women in construction trades in New York and Seattle from the 1960s to 2010. She found the number of minority men varied according to market conditions, but the number of women entering the trades stayed the same.

“I can’t speak for every local in the country, but … the industry [is still] letting in 2% women as a token,” says Moccio. “They’re keeping it to 2%.”

Read the full article in Engineering News Record.com.