Special to the Times-Free Press
Women in the building trades came together for the first-ever Women Build Boston conference on Saturday, October 8, highlighting Boston’s leadership in making the construction industry more inclusive and diverse. The conference, dedicated to celebrating and uplifting women’s role in building trades unions, convened over 700 women across the trades. The event was attended by women of all skill levels who work in the building trades across New England, as well as allies.
“This is the labor movement at its best and what happens when a group of determined workers fights for their rights,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh. “[The women of Women Build Boston] have grown into a powerful force in this industry. You are united and ready to smash down the doors for the next generation of women. And I’m here to tell you—the Biden-Harris administration has your back because you’re leading the way.”
The conference, organized by the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions, took place at Encore Boston Harbor — a landmark site for the advancement of women in the building trades. Under a project labor agreement, the greatest tool for promoting equity in the construction industry, nearly 500 tradeswomen were part of Encore’s construction crew, the largest number of women workers on any construction project in U.S. history.
“As the proud daughter of a union school nurse – a single mom who raised all five of us on her own – I am forever in awe of the strength and resilience of women in labor,” said Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts and the Democratic nominee for Governor of Massachusetts. “We’ve worked closely together to diversify the trades and bring more women into these high-paying, rewarding, and in-demand fields. As Governor, I want to build on this work to create and expand career paths for women in the trades and meet the urgent infrastructure needs of our state.”
“Today, we came together to build up our labor movement,” said Jenaya Nelson, a 25-year member of Laborers Local 223. “What started as a small group of us has grown into a sisterhood of solidarity for thousands of Boston tradeswomen. It’s time to double down on our progress and bring thousands more women into our ranks.”
“Whenever I look at construction sites, I see women stepping up and paving the way for Boston’s future. I’m honored to be part of the surge in women’s participation and leadership in building trades unions,” said Renee Dozier, Business Agent of IBEW Local 103. “We’re creating not just a better Boston, but a better future for women workers.”
The day kicked off with a tribute to four Massachusetts women trailblazers in the building trades: Susan Eisenberg of IBEW Local 103, Deb Gilcoine of Painters and Allied Tradesmen District Council 35, Maura Russell of Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 12, and Gayann Wilkinson of Iron Workers Local 7. Attendees also participated in breakout sessions that helped them build financial literacy, develop their leadership skills, know their worker rights, and protect their mental health.