Webinar on Respectful Workplaces and Health & Safety Empowerment for Women in Trades

Webinar: Respectful Workplaces and Health and Safety Empowerment for Women in Trades
Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Organized by: The West Region Transportation Workforce Center and the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

Transportation organizations and private contractors alike face significant difficulty in recruiting and retaining personnel for highway construction and other infrastructure projects. Lack of diversity within the trades has exacerbated labor shortages. This webinar explores research conducted on the experience of women and minorities in highway construction and the trades. The research pinpoints issues that specifically affect women on the job site. Webinar speakers will present research results and describe how that research served to inform pilot programs in both Oregon and Washington to foster respectful workplaces, and to improve health and safety for women in the trades. 

Webinar Speakers:

Maura Kelly is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Portland State University. Dr. Kelly’s research interests focus on gender, sexualities, race/ethnicity, and work and occupations. Her current research primarily focuses on the construction trades, assessing experiences of harassment and discrimination, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of programs intended to promote diversity in the construction workforce.
Lea Hegge is Vice President of Programs for Alteristic, which provides training and technical assistance in power-based personal violence prevention. Lea provides leadership in developing prevention curriculum and coaching of staff trainers. She has served as a violence prevention educator and domestic violence/sexual assault advocate as well as a program evaluator in multiple states. She holds a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Kentucky.
Hannah Curtis is a Research Coordinator at the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, where she manages community-engaged programs addressing health and safety needs of women in the construction trades and low-wage workers in the Seattle area. She holds a Master of Public Health specializing in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan, where she worked to prevent sexual violence among college students and improve economic opportunities for sexually-vulnerable youth in Detroit.
Jo Scherer is Co-Chair of Washington Women in Trades (WWIT), a community based organization that aims to improve women’s economic equity and self-sufficiency through access and success in high-wage, high-skilled careers in the construction, manufacturing and transportation sector. Jo has been with WWIT for over 20 years and oversees its annual career fairs and awards dinners. WWIT and the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences have been collaborating on the Safety and Health Empowerment for Women in Trades study since 2014. In addition to her work with WWIT, Jo recently retired from a 28-year career with the City of Seattle as a maintenance carpenter.

A 2014 report by Jobs for the Future and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that women make up fewer than 3 percent of all construction workers despite high job growth projections for the industry, particularly in highway and road construction. Women are likewise significantly underrepresented in apprenticeship programs, an important training source for skilled workers in the trades. [1] Women may face different issues on the jobsite due to their minority status in the construction trades. Identifying how women’s on-the-job experience differs is an important first step in fostering diversity in the workforce. A critical, but often overlooked, follow-on is identifying how employers and others can utilize this knowledge to effectively mitigate the negative impacts experienced by minority demographic groups within their workforce.

The purpose of this webinar is twofold. First, webinar presenters will discuss research conducted on workplace climate, health and safety risks, and other barriers to women’s success in the construction trades. Next, researchers and advocacy and training community partners will discuss how they have used the research to inform the development of pilot programs. Plans for pilot implementation and evaluation will also be discussed.  A second webinar is planned in 2018 to present the evaluation results of the pilot projects described.

Research to Practice:

Workplace Climate – Oregon
Researchers at Portland State University have conducted formal assessments on the impact of the Highway Construction Workforce Development Program – a partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to increase diversity in the state’s highway construction trades. The program supports pre-apprenticeship programs and provides social support and other programs aimed at supporting the successful completion of highway construction apprenticeships by women and people of color. In program evaluations completed in both 2014 and 2016, the research revealed workplace culture as a major challenge faced by apprentices. White women and women of color both reported lack of mentoring or on the job training at a higher rate than their male counterparts. Poor workplace climate led many to leave their jobs before completing their apprenticeships. Recommendations for improvements to the Highway Construction Workforce Development Program included enhanced efforts to promote respectful workplaces through effective leadership and enforcement of anti-harassment policies.

In response to this assessment, ODOT/BOLI allocated funding from the Highway Construction Workforce Development Program to design and implement a pilot project aimed at promoting respectful workplaces in the construction trades. The project is a collaborative effort between PSU researchers, Alteristic (formerly Green Dot etcetera) and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. Focus groups with industry stakeholders were held to determine how a bystander intervention program spearheaded by Alteristic could be adapted for the construction trades. The adapted program is now being implemented at a pilot job site. Evaluation data on the pilot project’s effectiveness in reducing harassment and discrimination at the job site will be presented during the subsequent webinar.

Health and Safety – Washington
The University of Washington conducted research to determine what, if any, additional health and safety risks women in trades experienced on the job. The results of focus groups and surveys revealed that women do report higher injury risk compared to men, as well as gender-related stressors that negatively impact their health and safety on the job.

The data from this study is being used to inform the development of a mentoring program to address risks associated with health and safety for women working in the construction industry. Researchers are working with Washington Women in Trades and other community partners to develop, implement, and evaluate the pilot program in the state of Washington.

Research and Program Development Reports:

Webinar Materials: