‘Where are the women?’

To the editor:

We keep hearing about the ARRA (the economic stimulus package) money pouring into New Hampshire and other states. I heard the other day that “New Hampshire is leading other New England states in getting that money out.” If you’ve been driving anywhere lately, but especially on I-93, you’ll have noticed that there is a lot of highway and bridge construction going on! I keep wondering, “Where are the women?”

Highway, bridge and the new green construction jobs are good paying jobs by New Hampshire standards. They (mostly) don’t require a college education. As a matter of fact, these workers learn on the job while getting paid. The work is NO heavier or dirtier than being a certified nurses assistant, but it pays more.

It’s not that women don’t want to do this work. Often women don’t even think they can get hired to work in skilled trades and technical jobs. Did you also know that there are federal regulations regarding female employment on all federal aid projects? The regulation that I am referring to is Executive Order 11246, published in 1978. In addition to setting a goal of 6.9 percent female participation in each trade category, these regulations also set out 16 steps to affirmative action that contractors must adhere to.

However, over and above the fact that it is the law, it is also the right thing to do. Women make up half the workforce in New Hampshire. Women make up around 2 percent of the construction workers in New Hampshire . Construction is one of the few career opportunities where without a college degree, one can get on the job training and earn a livable wage.

The New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women has started a new initiative this year: “Better Jobs for New Hampshire Women – New Traditions.” They are working with other state and Federal agencies and many community based organizations to help New Hampshire women learn about, and become employed in trades and technical jobs.

As you drive around, count the number of women working on the construction projects you see. Last month a friend of mine did. She counted 104 workers, with three of them women.

When our tax dollars are being used to create new jobs in highway, bridge and green construction it is unfair, and illegal to leave out half the population. We know how to recruit and train women who are interested in earning a decent living. We know how to make the worksite welcoming for women. We have a great opportunity to help the women of New Hampshire to increase their opportunities for earning a fair and livable wage. We are spending millions of our tax dollars here in New Hampshire. Don’t forget the women of New Hampshire.

Ronnie Sandler

Categories: Cook on Concord