New Survey Finds Construction Trades Offer Good Wages for Women Workers, but Harassment and Discrimination Still Common

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A new brief from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) summarizes findings from the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey and finds that many women working in the construction trades earn good wages, but discrimination and harassment are far too common experiences.

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Washington, DC—A new brief from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) summarizes findings from the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey and finds that many women working in the construction trades earn good wages, but discrimination and harassment are far too common experiences.

Nearly a third of the over 200 respondents reported high levels of harassment, and more than one in ten experienced severe enough employment discrimination to make a formal charge to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, 37 percent of those who identified as LGBT reported frequent discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, and 32 percent of women of color reported frequent racial harassment and discrimination.

Many women we surveyed enjoyed the work and earned good wages, but no one should have to tolerate such hostile behavior at work,” said Brigid O’Farrell, co-author of the brief. “The survey findings show that construction employers, unions, and the government must do more to recruit, train, and ensure a safe workplace free of harassment for many women.”

Almost a quarter of all respondents reported that there is never another woman with them on the job.  A striking 46 percent of non-union respondents reported this isolation, compared with 16 percent of union members.

More than a third of respondents report not being treated equally in hiring and the allocation of hours of work, and only 41 percent said they were treated equally with respect to promotions. Encouragingly, younger women are more likely than older respondents to say they are ‘always’ treated equally in response to almost each aspect of work and training surveyed.

“Out of over 200 women working in construction, only three had learned about opportunities in the trades through career counselors or job training centers,” said IWPR Study Director Ariane Hegewisch. “As the construction industry grows again, there is a huge opportunity for getting more women into well-paying construction jobs through better access to career advice and training, and keeping them in the trades through improved enforcement of anti-discrimination and harassment policies.”

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

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