What’s known as a non-traditional industry for women
Over the last few decades women in construction (WIC) has been growing in popularity. You may find it surprising but, WIC dates back to the 13th century in Spain. Historians believe there were WIC even though it was considered immoral to do hard labor away from the domestic chores. Poor women helped as unskilled laborers “off the books” by carrying water, digging ditches, mixing mortar and thatch roofs. Skilled building tradeswomen were middle class and able to work for pay in masonry, carpentry or other crafts. Additionally, these skills are thought to have been learned from their husbands or fathers commonly through a family business.
However, during the crises in 17th and 18th centuries these tasks were more commonly given to men going through hardships. Additionally, the Trade Guilds placed a restriction eliminating work through inheritance. Consequently, almost eliminating women in construction; even “skilled” wives and daughters working in the family business were cut out.
By the Mid-18th Century
The economic boom had returned women to the construction sites as laborer’s and tradeswomen. This time with more social acceptance of a women working in a hard labor job. WWII expanded this boom exponentially making this era one of the most instrumental periods for women in construction. Because of the men being sent to fight in the war women were left to fill vacant jobs. As a result, women almost suddenly dominated the industry; from crane operators and welders to electrical engineers and mechanics.
Subsequently, as troops started arriving home, women found themselves being fired from the job. But why you ask? Simply put, so men could resume the “mans work”. For this reason, started the feminist movements of the 1960’s. Leading to the first laws passed to protect women in the workforce, most notable was the 1964 Civil Rights Movement.
Fast forward to present day, there are over 1.1 million women in construction jobs. Moreover, that number continues to grow as the stereotype diminishes and women continue to prove their capabilities. This growth has eliminated criticism of WIC and today companies are providing the same training to male & female workers. Above all, the pay gap is closing faster in the construction industry than others! For example, in many occupations women earn $.82 to every dollar men make (Beureau of Labor Statistics). Compared to the construction industry, women make $.96 to every dollar men make (NAWIC). Overall, there’s still a gap that needs closing but it’s much smaller than in other industries. (Happy dance 💃).
Women Who Shaped the Industry, For Women
Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first American woman to practice as a professional architect in the United States. She opened her own architectural company with her husband in 1885, Bethune & Bethune. In 1885, she became the first women admitted into the Architectural Professional Association. Additionally, during her career she was a partner in designing 100-150 buildings in Buffalo, NY & New England.
Engineer Emily Warren Roebling was the first documented woman field engineer. A job that started as the field engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge eventually ending as the project lead. She acquired this lead role after her husband, Washington Roebling, fell ill. During the opening ceremony in 1883, she rode across the bridge with President Chester A. Arthur. Due to her instrumental role to the success of the project she was given this well-deserved opportunity.
Lilian Gilbreth was an industrial engineer and the first woman accepted into the Society for Industrial Engineers. Gilbreth was a highly sought after consultant during WWII, most notably by President Hoover. She’s known for her innovative work designing kitchens, appliance patents, worker efficiency and workplace human relations.
Barbara Res was the first ever female foreman to oversee a major American construction project. Res was the lead in the construction of Trump Tower from ground breaking to ribbon cutting.
Gear for tradeswomen like yourself
Although the number of WIC has been rising steadily, the gear has not been making the same advancements. Until now! Within the last few years more suppliers are seeing the need and designing products geared towards women. Thus, no more bulky vests and jackets or hard hats that don’t fit you right. First and foremost, in order for safety gear to be effective and safe, it needs to fit you right!
With this in mind, here are a few women gear MC Picks:
Ergodyne Skullerz 8970 Class E Cap-Style Hard Hat with Ratchet Suspension
First and foremost, protect your head! You don’t want your brain to do a 90’s dance as a result of a hard hat not fitting properly! In our “A Hard Hat Explained” Blog, we talk about why a hard hat is important and who should be wearing one.
This Ergodyne Skullers hard hat gives you a perfect fit with your pony tail! A pivoting adjustment knob gives you the ability to comfortably clear a ponytail or bandana knot and size it accordingly for your head.
Ergodyne VALI Safety Glasses
Next, safety glasses that fit a woman’s face… need we say more? Constructed with a contoured nose bridge they offer a firm and comfortable fit to your face. Most importantly, no more fighting with big bulky safety glasses that slide off your face!
Radians Women’s Safety Vest
In addition to eyes and head protection, you need to be seen on the jobsite! This leads me to some hi-vis women designed clothing.
First, is this women’s hi-vis vest which features a radio pocket, and 2 lower front covered pockets. The inside pockets are extra deep to prevent tools, phones, and radios from falling out. Additionally the contrasting stripe trim ensures you’re seen on the jobsite. Compared to the traditional hi-vis vest this style is made to comfortably fit women so snags and injuries are avoided.
Radians Women’s Hi-Vis Tshirt
Next up for hi-vis women’s clothing is this Radians class 2 hi-vis t-shirt. Featuring Max-Dri™ Moisture Wicking Mesh made with an arid Birdseye Mesh. The moisture wicking mesh allows for maximum breathability, without compromising durability. This is a great option for our hot Minnesota summers! Tailored to fit a woman’s shape and provide you with maximum visibility. Made for women by women.
PortWest Women’s Softshell Jacket
Keeping you warm on cool mornings and seen with this hi-vis jacket. Designed and tested by women. The high quality 3-layer breathable, water resistant and windproof fabric will keep you warm. This stylish women’s jacket will ensure you’re warm, seen and equally important, safe! Meanwhile the multiple practical features ensure this is a must-have solution for a range of working professionals.
PortWest Women’s Winter Jacket
Compared to the soft shell jacket, this is layered and lined for warmth. It’s your perfect winter jobsite jacket! Made from 300D Oxford PU coated durable stain resistant fabric, providing a comfortable and flattering fit. Featuring Insulatex heat reflective lining panel, multiple zipped pockets for secure storage and EZEE zipper technology. This stylish ladies jacket will ensure you’re warm, seen and safe. Designed and tested by women.
PortWest Women’s Stretch Work Pants & Rain Pants
Last but not least, these innovative ladies stretch pants are a game changer! They are made with high performing two-way stretch fabric for maximum range of movement. Oxford fabric reinforcement at key abrasion points and triple stitching throughout for maximum durability. This combination allows you to move around without worry. Securely hold your phone, keys, and tools in the kneepad pockets as well as the multi-way thigh pocket. (Work pants available in black or hi-vis).
Minnesota’s locally owned & operated tool & safety equipment supplier.
Offering you 1 hour product pick up or 24 hour delivery on all in-stock items.
Because getting your jobsite supplies shouldn’t be a waiting game.
Women know how to make the industry fun! 😉
In 1953, in a predominantly male industry, sixteen women in construction saw the need to offer women support and networking in the industry. In spite of low WIC numbers they worked to establish what’s now called the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). NAWIC is based in Texas and has grown to 115 chapters throughout the USA in 2022.
Core Purpose: Strengthen and amplify the success of women in the construction industry.
Mission Statement: The association is committed to championing women to impact the direction of the construction industry. NAWIC provides education, community and advocacy for women.
In Minnesota, we have 3 chapters:
Additionally, the association holds an annual National Women in Construction Week. The dates for 2022 are coming up on March 6-12th (the 2nd week in March). Whether you’re apart of the association or not we invite you to take a look at your local chapter for their list of events.
If you’re in our Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter
We have a fun list of WIC week events lined up for 2022. A few events, including but not limited to:
- Opening Ceremony | March 7th
- Habitat for Humanity Build | March 8th
- Beyond the Pink | March 8th Gear Swap & Trade – hands on experience & get new gear. Open to all tradeswomen, crafters and DIY’ers (MC Tool & Safety co-hosted event with MN Tool Library).
- Owning Your Destiny: Mapping Your Dreams & Making Them Come True | March 9th
- Industry Showcase & Happy Hour | March 9th
- Evolving into Leadership | March 10th
- The Power of Social Media | March 10th
- Building in Community | March 11th Good Coffee & Conversation leading into the weekend.
- Recognizing Women of Color in the Construction & the Built Environment | March 11th
We’d love to see you at one or two events!
To clarify, all events are free to attend and everyone is welcome.
WE’RE YOUR LOCAL WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION GEAR & SAFETY EXPERTS.
MC Tool & Safety Is Woman Owned and Run.
We Offer Only Friendly Top-Notch Service.
Meet the MC Team
Left to right: Tiffany (Marketing & Office Manager), Ross (Sales Rep), Erika (Owner/President), Kyle (Warehouse Manager), Ken (VP/Owner), and last but not least Brett (Operations Manager)