2006 New Home Construction
Social and Economic Justice
Today, in 2003, we find ourselves, as women, continuing
to face multiple levels of sexism and economic disenfranchisement
in our society, in our communities, in our day-to-day lives.
And when we think of justice, how do we find justice when
we have women continuing to struggle to be all of who they
want to be or believe they can be?
It behooves us women to question all historians, sacred
and profane, who teach by examples or precepts any philosophy
that lowers the status of the mothers of the race, or favors
the one-man Power in government.
As women, we have a herstory that requires examination
to help us shape our futures. We know that we struggle
with being able to support our families and capturing the
"American Dream" we hear so much about. We know
that life can be difficult trying to survive on a wage
that keeps us living in poverty. We find ourselves having
to choose between buying a warm winter coat, paying the
insurance on a car that will break down again or being
able to buy the kinds of over-the-counter medications needed
to take care of our sick children. It can get wearisome
and often, we don't understand why in the richest country
in the world, we have this struggle. Many of us will blame
ourselves for "our lot in life." In addition,
women also want to use their bodies and minds in ways that
have historically been closed to them.
Where is the justice?
As we look to the past, the far past, we can see a time
when societies were more egalitarian. The roles of both
men and women were necessary to the survival of the people
and society valued them as equally important. Ancient societies
carried egalitarian values around decision-making, authority,
political and spiritual leadership, and economic distributions.
Over time that changed, societies moved to a male dominated
social order where men's roles are defined as having a
higher societal value and women were excluded from access.
Men have been afforded more power and opportunity, they
have the power and authority to shape and define what is
important and control the majority of the wealth. At the
same time, in a male dominated society, women's "work"
tends to be paid at lower wages and have lesser societal
When we look to our more recent past, we can see how
women have been devalued in our society. We know from our
history lessons that there was a time when women did not
have the right to vote. At the same time, women were limited
in their access to employment that could sustain themselves
and their children, institutions of higher education as
well as in their ability to own and control property.
During the last century and a half, women have organized
to raise their status.
One Hundred Years Toward Suffrage: An Overview
||Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John,
who is attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia,
asking that he and the other men--who were at work on
the Declaration of Independence--"Remember the Ladies."
John responds with humor. The Declaration's wording specifies
that "all men are created equal."
|1820 to 1880
||Evidence from a variety of printed sources
published during this period reveals that Americans held
highly stereotypical notions about women's and men's
roles in society.
||Mississippi passes the first Married Woman's
||Female textile workers in Massachusetts
organize and demand a 10-hour workday. They formed one
of the first permanent labor associations for working
women in the United States
||The first women's rights convention in
the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York.
Many participants sign a "Declaration of Sentiments
and Resolutions" that outlines the main issues and
goals for the emerging women's movement. Thereafter,
women's rights meetings are held on a regular basis.
||Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. Over
the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom by
the Underground Railroad.
||The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified,
which extends to all citizens the protections of the
Constitution against unjust state laws. This Amendment
was the first to define "citizens" and "voters"
||Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought
to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote
in the presidential election. At the same time, Sojourner
Truth appears at a polling booth in Grand Rapids, Michigan,
demanding a ballot; she is turned away.
||A Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced
in the United States Congress. The wording is unchanged
in 1919, when the amendment finally passes both houses.
||Colorado becomes the first state to adopt
a state amendment enfranchising women.
||Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the
first American woman elected to represent her state in
the U.S. House of Representatives.
||The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified.
||The National Woman's Party first proposes
the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination
on the basis of gender. It has never been ratified.
During the early part of this same period, while women
of European descent were gaining ground, women of Latin
origins living in the southwest lost many of their rights
as states were formed. Indigenous women were suffering
extreme atrocities. The values of traditional Native society
were being undermined by practices aimed at gaining control
of the land and resources exposing and imposing a values
system foreign to Native societies that relegated women
to substandard citizens. Native women were raped, abused
and killed in order to seize land and force the assimilation
of Native people. Women of African descent were enslaved
by white landowners. They were raped by the slave owners
to impregnate them to increase their wealth. The families
of those held in slavery were often torn a part and sold
or traded to increase wealth as well.
AIN'T I A WOMAN?
Well, children, where there is so much racket there
must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the
negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking
about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped
into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the
best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages,
or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't
I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed
and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could
head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and
eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear
the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen
children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when
I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard
me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's
this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"]
That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights
or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and
yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me
have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women
can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't
a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your
Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing
to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough
to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together
ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side
up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner
ain't got nothing more to say.
Sojourner Truth, delivered
at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851.
So now, nearly a century and a half later, have we achieved
The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), founded
in 1979, is a national membership coalition of over 80
organizations, including labor unions, women's and civil
rights organizations, religious, professional, education
and legal associations, commissions on women, state and
local pay equity coalitions and individual women and men
working to eliminate sex- and race-based wage discrimination
and to achieve pay equity. The NCPE maintains that a wage
gap continues to exist, in part, because many women and
people of color are still segregated into a few low-paying
Margaret Mead states in "Male and Female:"
"In every known human society, the male's need
for achievement can be recognized. Men may cook or weave
or dress dolls or hunt humming-birds, but if such activities
are appropriate occupations of men, then the whole society,
men and women alike, votes them as important. When the
same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded
as less important. In a great number of human societies
men's sureness of their sex role is tied up with their
right, or ability, to practice some activity that women
are not allowed to practice."
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, the wage
gap has been closing at a very slow rate. In 1963, women
who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average
for every dollar earned by men. In 2000, women earned 73
cents to the dollar. That means that the wage gap has narrowed
by a little over a third of a penny per year! More than
half of all women workers hold service jobs.
The wage gap is most severe for women of color. In 1999,
European American women earned 72% of every dollar earned
by men. Consider these facts about the paychecks of black
and Hispanic women in the workplace:
- Of full-time workers, black women's median weekly earnings
($429) were only 64% of the earnings of white men ($669)
in the year 2000.
- In one year, the average black woman earns approximately
$12,000 less than the average white man does. Over a thirty-five
year career, this adds up to $420,000!
- Among full-time, year-round workers, black women with
Bachelors' degrees make only $1,545 more per year than
white males who have only completed high school.
- Black women account for 30% of all female-headed families
in the U.S. They have a median income of $18,244 annually,
while families headed by white males (no wife present)
have a median income of $39,240. (Notes: 1) Income is
more inclusive than earnings. 2) The term "female-headed
families" does not necessarily include the presence
- According to the Census Bureau, in 2000, the median
full-time earnings for Hispanic women were $20,527 only
52% of the median earnings of white men ($37,339).
- In one year, the average Hispanic woman working full-time
earns $17,837 less than the average white man does. Over
a 30-year career, that adds up to $510,000!
- The median income of a female Hispanic householder
($20,765) is only 46% of the incomes of single white male
householders ($44,988). (Note: Income is more inclusive
- Hispanic women with a high school diploma earn $22,469.
That is 33% less than white men with the same level of
Today, in 2003, as women, we continue to face multiple
levels of sexism and economic disenfranchisement in our
society, in our communities, in our day to day lives. Women
in Construction, LLC strives to create an equal playing
field for women entering construction trades. There is
a belief that this business for and by women belongs here,
there is a place in the world for it.
Discrimination in the Trades
- The construction industry has been overwhelmingly male
dominated for years, and on many jobsites women construction
workers are not welcome.
- Sex discrimination and anti-women attitudes are still
prevalent on worksites, despite the fact that sex discrimination
- According to Women in the Construction Workplace: Providing
Equitable Safety and Health Protection, study and recommendations
by the Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
found that, in a one year period:
- 41% of female construction workers suffered from
gender harassment. In the CWIT study,
- 88% of the respondents reported sexual harassment.
(The following is taken from the "Chicago Women
in Trades" website)
The primary cause of the Wage Gap is occupational segregation,
the clustering of women in low wage jobs. The labor force
is sharply divided by sex, and this occupational segregation
contributes to women's poverty. In 1997 only 14% of working
women were employed in nontraditional jobs.
Traditional Jobs for Women
Nontraditional Jobs for Women
|Aircraft engine mechanics
||$12.03 - $30.99
|Heavy equipment mechanics
American women will continue to find that their wages
are low and that they are unable to support themselves
or their families unless substantial numbers of working
women are able to gain access to a wider range of occupations.
The segregation of women in a few low-paying occupations
contributes to the gap between the earnings of men, and
presents a barrier to economic self-sufficiency for the
majority of working women.
LIFETIME DIFFERENCE IN EARNINGS
|Child care worker
|$8.71 per hour
||$27.22 per hour
|$18,117 per year
||$56,618 per year
|$543,510 in 30 years
||$1,698,540 in 30 years
- $543,510 = $1,155,030
WOMEN IN NONTRADITIONAL, BLUE-COLLAR CAREERS
The majority of women continue to be segregated into
20 out of 440 occupations.1 School and unemployment services
often fail to explore nontraditional careers with women
and girls. Not knowing all of their options, they choose
traditional female dominated careers, because they are
familiar with them. Unlike traditional female dominated
careers, blue-collar careers in the manufacturing, construction
and transportation sectors of the economy offer wages and
benefits that lead to economic self-sufficiency.
Percentage of women working in nontraditional, blue
collar careers in 2000
Plumbers and Pipefitters 1.3%
Skilled Manufacturing 2.1%
Why women want to work in these careers
Better Pay. Nontraditional careers pay more -
20-30% more AND better benefits than traditional female
Career Advancement. Nontraditional careers have
established career ladders to provide women with the opportunity
to advance and earn higher wages and benefits.
Freedom. Nontraditional careers provide women with
greater autonomy, the opportunity to work with their hands,
and higher job satisfaction by expanding career opportunities.
Women are Good At It. Smaller hands and body structures
often make women better equipped to work with small parts
and in little compartments.
Women who choose nontraditional careers may need additional
training and often face barriers to entry.
Need Training. Women are often unfamiliar with
how to use tools and read blueprints.
Careers Unknown. Women do not have the opportunity
to explore non-traditional careers. These positions are
also not advertised in newspapers and in employment centers.
Need Sponsors. Many apprenticeship programs require
apprentices to be sponsored by employers or others in the
Hostile Worksites. Women are isolated and often
Sexual Harassment. Women often work by pictures
and drawings of naked women, are submitted to unwelcome
sexual remarks or advances.
WiCC provides the continued support needed to
break through the institutional sexism women are faced
with. Women involved with WiCC are doing it because
they believe in the project and want it to succeed.
"Hanging In, Solo," from the book "Poems
from the Construction Site" by Susan Eisenberg
"Women should have equal pay for equal
work and they should be considered equally eligible to
the offices of principal and superintendent, professor
and president. So you must insist that qualifications,
not sex, shall govern appointments and salaries."
Susan B Anthony,