By Frank Callahan
The gleaming new Encore Boston Harbor hotel and casino in Everett has earned rave reviews for its elegance and opulence, for turning a formerly polluted Monsanto site into a sparkling green waterfront and for bringing excitement and energy to what was once an industrial wasteland. It’s also being recognized for an historic achievement in gender equity.
More than 450 tradeswomen were part of Encore’s 7,000-person construction crew over the past three years, making it the largest number of women workers on any construction project in U.S. history.
It’s not surprising that this proud record was set in Massachusetts. In fact, it’s intentional.
Massachusetts’ Building Trades Unions, along with the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI), Building Pathways, and Massachusetts Girls in Trades, have led groundbreaking efforts for more than a decade to increase the number of women in construction. We’re proud to report that today, Massachusetts leads the nation on gender diversity and inclusion in construction.
The facts speak for themselves: in Massachusetts, the percentage of women in union apprenticeship programs is nearly triple the national average of women in the construction workforce. In fact, 95% of all women apprentices in Massachusetts are enrolled in Union-Sponsored Apprenticeship Programs.
And while the numbers are impressive, it’s the people and the stories behind them that matter.
I should know; as a proud Local 537 union pipe-fitter who worked at the Encore development (and co-wrote this article), I’m one of them.
I used to be stuck at a low-paying desk job. Times were tough. I couldn’t afford rent on my own, so I had to live with my father. Even then, it was hard to pay my bills.
Thankfully I heard about Building Pathways, an initiative started by the Boston building trade unions to recruit top talent and open more career pathways to women and people of color. As soon as I went to an informational meeting, I knew that union construction was the right choice for my future. And boy was I right. Today I earn $100,000 per year, was able to buy a house in Rockland last year, and I am expecting my first child in November. Thanks to union wages and benefits, I am not scared to raise a family. I’m really proud to be part of the record-breaking team of tradeswomen that made Encore possible.
There’s no secret formula to recruiting more women into the trades. Massachusetts’ nationally-recognized success is the result of years of work and dedication from construction unions, union contractors, and our partners, all of whom work to break down barriers and encourage more women to pursue life-changing careers in the union building trades.
There’s no one right way to help more tradeswomen build our region, but Massachusetts building trades unions and organizations are leading the way, and we’re not stopping any time soon. We’re going to keep recruiting women into our ranks. Soon enough, we’ll set a new record. What an Encore that would be!
Frank Callahan is the President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Unions. Savy Francis is a Rockland resident and proud member of Pipefitters Local 537. She was part of the historic team of tradeswoman who built Encore.