By K. Aleisha Fetters
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
For female electricians time has stood still. While women are gaining rank and numbers in many other highly-paid fields, here the numbers are stuck at token levels of about 1 percent. An annual women's construction fair in California might help.
For women to be largely absent from the field means a huge loss in earnings and a contribution to a national gender pay gap that leaves women earning on average roughly 80 percent of their male counterparts.
Eisenberg said that female electricians earn the same high per-hour wages as their male counterparts on unionized job sites. The average hourly earning for U.S. electrical workers is $24.45, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But contractors don't hire female electricians often enough for their weekly wages to keep up with those of men. Male union members earn an average of $964 a week versus $847 for women, according to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is reviewing contractor compliance standards within the industry to determine if language and standards should change. Currently contractors only have to "make a good faith effort" to have a worksite crew be 6.9 percent female.
Contractors should also be held accountable in promoting a safe and equal workplace for women, says Francine A. Moccio, author of the recently released book "Live Wire: Women and Brotherhood in the Electrical Industry."
Tradeswomen, Inc., California's first organization for women in the building and construction trades, has held a statewide conference for nine years to help women meet and exchange information.
This year it is broadening the conference to include women in the building trades nationwide. "Women Building California and the Nation" will be held April 30-May 1 in Oakland, Calif.
"Reaching out to women in other trades is something they have found to be a good organizational strategy," said Moccio.
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K. Aleisha Fetters is a freelance writer based in New York City.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:
We'll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction
Live Wire: Women and Brotherhood in the Electrical Industry
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