OVERVIEW | MYTHS AND FACTS | GETTING STARTED IN THE TRADES | FAQs
The herstory of the tradeswomen movement has been the struggle to survive as pioneers in an unwelcoming world and to change conditions that prevent women from being fully integrated into well-paid blue-collar jobs. Despite gains in many professional occupations, women have yet to make significant inroads into skilled blue-collar careers.
Occupations in the trades are the key to many women's exit from welfare to a life of economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. Unlike careers typically dominated by women, for example child care and retail sales, characteristics of careers in the trades are wages up to $30 per hour, on-the-job training, pensions, and health care benefits through union membership. (See chart, "Lifetime Difference in Earnings.") Unfortunately, many women and girls are continually locked out of these family- sustaining careers. For example, although 30% of the job opportunities in Illinois are in construction and manufacturing, women constitute only 3% of the construction workforce, and only 2.1% of the high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs [Data from: The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) Monthly statistical Summary, November 1999]. With 45% of households supported by women living below the poverty level and limitations imposed on welfare benefits, opening access to these family sustaining, career path occupations is critical both to assisting individual women achieve economic self-sufficiency and to changing perceptions of women's ability to perform these jobs.
Chicago Women in Trades direct service and advocacy programs for women and girls are dedicated to changing these statistics. Learn more about how to get started in the trades and achieve economic self-sufficiency.