We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction

I never imagined I’d love a book so much about women trying to break into the construction industry. In the early 1990s, Susan Eisenberg (also a tradeswoman) interviewed thirty women about their experiences across ten states as the first women in their union locals in the five trades: carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, painters, and plumbers. 1978 was a watershed year, where President Jimmy Carter set goals and timetables for hiring women on federally funded construction project. These goals (never mandated) suggested the workforce should include at least 6.9% women within three years. I believe it never got above 2.5% and has remained there due to crushing unwillingness, terrible and unsafe work conditions, lack of encouragement, hostility, harassment, and lack of real economic opportunity. Women were selected for federal jobs and then let go, just so they could check the box. This book is filled with great interviews of what it was like to tap that sexist ceiling with their hammers, to try and “infiltrate” a man’s world of construction. Fascinating stuff.