St. Louis was well represented by a diverse group of tradeswomen at the 2016 Women Build Nations Conference in Chicago.
The sixth annual conference was co-sponsored by the North American Building Trades Unions and Chicago Women in Trades. It was the first time the event was held outside of California.
Because the conference was so close to home, more local women were able to attend, said Beth Barton, president of Missouri Women in Trades. At least 25 tradeswomen from the St. Louis area made the trip.
Some of the local unions represented included the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, Ironworkers Local 396, Laborers’ Local 110, IBEW Local 1 and Heat & Frost Insulators Local 1.
“It was the best conference yet,” said Barton, who has attended five of the six conferences. “It focused on strength and empowerment, and we were able to learn a lot about the importance of the labor movement in Chicago by taking part in a labor history tour and participating in the city’s May Day march and rally.”
More than 1,500 women from 40 states, Canada, Nigeria and the Philippines attended the event, which featured about 50 workshops. It brought together women from multiple construction crafts to build leadership skills, learn strategies for overcoming challenges and unite around common issues.
Patti Devlin, chairwoman of the North America's Building Trades Unions' Women's Committee, called the level of comradery and enthusiasm at the conference “electric.”
"At one point, the 1,500 attendees were asked if they had ever been the only woman on a job site,” Devlin told Contractor Magazine. “Every hand immediately shot up.”
Between a networking event and an online and email campaign, MoWIT raised $1,000 in scholarship money to help send local women to the conference. Three scholarships were awarded.