In 1978 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) mandated affirmative action to increase women’s enrollment in the apprenticeship programs that are the main pathway to employment in the skilled construction trades. DOL acted in response to women’s continued near total exclusion from the programs despite the ban on sex discrimination in apprenticeship enacted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
DOL’s affirmative action mandate has failed to achieve its purpose. Women still hold fewer than 3% of the skilled trades jobs and fewer than 3% of the skilled trades apprenticeships. Meanwhile, in other occupations that can be as physically challenging as trades work may be,women’s share of employment has grown, for example, to 43% of bus drivers, 36% of paramedics, 36% of mail carriers, 35% of athletes/coaches/umpires, 23% of farmers and ranchers, 19% of agricultural workers, 15% of the military (including 7% of marines), and 12% of police officers.
- Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment