The origins of Tradeswomen Building Bridges go back to meeting of tradeswomen in China in 1995. 1995. In 1995, at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, three United States-based female construction workers—commonly known as “tradeswomen” in the west– proposed and facilitated a workshop for women working in the construction sector. The workshop was in a very small room and the organizers expected a handful of women to show up. Over 60 women from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Japan, the United States, Denmark and England came to the workshop and participated in the first-ever international discussion of work and working conditions by women in construction. The event was documented in the 2006 film Transnational Tradeswomen. Many things were talked about that day. Decades later those who participated remember one revelation as the most remarkable. Women from developed economies described systematic exclusion from good paying careers in a male-dominated industry. Women from developing economies described being relegated to the most menial, backbreaking and dangerous work within the same industry. One participant summarized the feelings in the workshop as, “In the North they say we are not strong enough; in the South they say we are not smart enough.” Tradeswomen Building Bridges grows out of the sharing that happened that day in 1995. As the construction industry has become global, women who work in the industry need their own global platform to have their voices heard. Although working conditions for women vary widely, exploitation of women and ineffective government intervention are constants in the global construction sector. We are committed to helping build a global network of women working in construction.
Press conference in Beijing with tradeswomen from Thailand
North American and European tradeswomen in Beijing 1995
Twenty years later, Dr. Susan Moir, a long time researcher of tradeswomen’s issues, received a Fulbright Award to spend time in India learning about the lives of India’s women construction workers. Her research is published in the Indian journal Labour & Development.
In 2016, Dr. Moir returned to India with the “First Delegation of US Tradeswomen to India.“