Women Build Nations- what does it mean for tradeswomen?

24 Oct, 2017

Women Build Nations is a conference for active, aspiring and retired tradeswomen from all over the world. Hosted by the Women Build Nations Conference Planning Committee and Chicago Women in Trades; the seventh conference was held from October 13th-15th 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Mccormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. There were approximately 1600 tradeswomen in attendance from a various skilled construction trades crafts. The conference offers workshops and an invigorating plenary session featuring tradeswomen, union leaders, apprenticeship coordinators, contractors, and elected officials. The conference had over fifty-six workshops ranging from topics in Recruitment & Retention; Leadership Development; Policy/Politics and Health & Safety. A lot of thought is put into the details and conference planning; there were exercise classes in the mornings, social and networking activities as well as 12 Step meetings daily.

The energy and pride is incomparable to any conference I’ve ever attended. The plenary and workshops are always jam packed and full of participation. Tradeswomen are free to be themselves without fear of repercussion, discrimination and harassment that many of them have faced in their careers. The conference is inspiring, full of support and comradery.

During a plenary panel session on the groundbreaking Ironworkers International Maternity policy, Ironworker Bridget Booker courageously spoke about hiding her pregnancy in fear of losing her job and as a result, lost her child in miscarriage. The very same day her father passed, she received a phone call from the Ironworkers International Union letting her know that by sharing her tragic story, she inspired the launch of their new Maternity Policy. The policy includes six months of pre-delivery and six to eight weeks of post-delivery paid maternity leave. Tears fell from everyone around me, men and women. She received three standing ovations. This is powerful stuff; this is how change happens.

The conference continues to impact tradeswomen in profound ways. Let’s hear what the conference means some Canadian tradeswomen who had the opportunity to attend:

“Attending the conference has been extremely valuable to help connect tradeswomen with one another and learn new methods to increase women’s participation in the building trades and our economy.  I made allies across Canada that will continue to encourage me to rise in my union to strengthen all of our brothers and sisters.”- Julie Sawatsky, BCRCC Local 1907, British Columbia

“Getting the opportunity to connect and network with the Sisters in my union. We are few and far between and it’s important for us to get together to discuss and strategize our trade specific issues with each other. There are so many workshops to choose from and I like that no matter where you are going with your career and what ladders you wish to climb there is a workshop to educate and empower you to do so. The Union Pride at this event is incredible! A woman’s place is in her union and this conference proves it!”- Jenna Lipinski, Bricklayer Local 1, Chair of Build Together Saskatchewan

“As a first- time attendee I found it very inspirational to see so many tradeswomen come together. The room was filled with unity, respect and love. A great experience!”- Lindsay Mann, Heat and Frost Insulator Local 99, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“The WBN conference is so important for giving women the energy and power to carry on in their daily jobs. Sharing our experiences and offering advice on challenges we face daily gives us the tools needed to be the best we can be. There is nothing more powerful than sisters backing sisters!” – Sandra Brynjolfson, IBEW Local 213 British Columbia, Co- Chair of Build Together BC

 “Women Build Nations conference was very exhilarating! This was my first year going. It was very eye opening to see the struggles and hardships many women endure. It was absolutely amazing to see how much support and solidarity each and every woman had for each other, regardless of trade! Every woman there is the true definition of a hero.” – Kimberly McLean, Journeyman Welder/Apprentice Ironworker from Local 720 Edmonton, Alberta

If you are interested in attending the conference stay tuned – we will be sure to post the confirmed dates and location for Women Build the Nations 2018.

If you are an employer, a contractor or a local union, support your tradeswomen and encourage them to attend. Sending tradeswomen to the conference is one way show them that they are valued in their workplace and in their union.

Next blog post we will feature guest blogger Lyle Daniels, Labour Strategist for the Saskatchewan Building Trades. Lyle will share his experience, successes, challenges and the importance of recruiting and retaining Indigenous Peoples to the Building Trades.