Women’s Equality Day officially began in the United States in 1973 when the U.S. Congress designated August 26th to commemorate the adoption of the 19th Amendment, assuring that ‘the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of gender.” This day marks a turning point in the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights. The day also sheds light on the work yet to be done in the United States and abroad.
The women’s rights movement began in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights conference in Seneca Falls, New York. This event sparked an ongoing worldwide civil movement toward equal rights for women. From top government to local communities, Women’s Equality Day holds everyone accountable to ensure equality is a priority.
The August 26, 1973, commemoration is the result of 72 years of campaigning by a massive civil rights movement for women. Before activities like these, even respected thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant believed that woman’s inferior status in society was completely logical and reasonable; women were ‘beautiful’ and ‘not fit for serious employment.’ The date has been selected to commemorate the day in the 1920s when Bainbridge Colby, the Secretary of State at the time, signed the proclamation that gave women in the United States the constitutional right to vote.
Proclamation 4236-Women’s Equality Day was made in 1973, “The struggle for women’s suffrage, however, was only the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our nation’s life. In recent years, we have made other giant strides by addressing gender discrimination through our laws and paving new avenues to equal economic opportunities for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life.”
In the last century, the world witnessed just what many women can achieve, from Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks, who fought for civil rights and equality, to female engineers like Emily Roebling, who directed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. An American inventor, Florence Parpart, patented the modern electric refrigerator in 1914. And so many more like Marie Curie, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Elsie Eaves, and Dorothy Vaughan, to name a few, have shown more than ever that women can accomplish great things, given the opportunity.
Today, women’s equality has evolved to mean much more than having the right to vote. Organizations such as Dress for Success, National Organization for Women, CARE, UN Women, Equality Now, and Womankind Worldwide continue to work to provide women around the world with equal opportunities for education and employment. They speak out and push back against discrimination and stereotypes that, unfortunately, still happen in every society today.
Modern Women in Construction
In our previous article, “Why Women are Needed in Construction,” we mention that the Associated Builders and Contractors estimate the industry needs to hire almost 650,000 workers in 2022 and an additional 590,000 in 2023 to meet demand. While demand for construction has risen over the pandemic, the number of workers employed has stagnated. In February 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7,613,000 construction (men and women) workers. That’s 11,000 jobs less than the pre-pandemic numbers of 7,624,000 in February 2020.
It has also been reported that women represented 10.9 percent of the total construction workforce. Women make up 47 percent of total employment, implying that the construction industry only employs approximately 1.25 percent of women in the United States workforce.
Women make up a significant proportion of the labor market in construction today, and the number of women entering construction management and the skilled trades is rising. That’s because more women are earning Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM)-related degrees, and the gender wage gap in construction is one of the narrowest in any industry. While women earn an average of 81 cents for every dollar men make across all industries, that figure rises to 94 cents for women in construction.
Despite these barriers (i.e., gender expectations, negative perceptions, and lack of female mentors), the number of women working in construction has increased in the past decade. The numbers have increased 54.7 percent from 802,000 women in 2012 to 1,241,000 women in 2021. According to Jocelyn Knoll, Partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, “More women have a seat at the table and on-site. This is a good time for women to enter the construction industry, whether as a tradesperson, construction manager, team member, architect, engineer, executive, consultant or professional.”
Why is Women’s Equality Day Important?
Recognizing the importance of Women’s Equality Day reminds us to honor the women (and men) who fought before us. We pay tribute to the trailblazers and suffragists who fought for equality for women and girls. Because of their courage, our predecessors paved the path for a brighter and more prosperous future. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their refusal to accept less.
A.R. Brouwer Makes a Difference
A.R. Brouwer Company believes in equality and empowering women to join the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry. This belief starts at the top. Our President, Steve Brouwer, and his wife empowered their three daughters to pursue their interests in STEM fields. All chose to study and work as engineers.
While it is widely known that construction is a male-dominated field, the push for women to join the industry is stronger than ever. Recruiting more women brings fresh ideas and new ways of thinking to the industry. At A.R. Brouwer, women make up almost 50 percent of our staff. We also provide many resources for all who want to pursue a career in construction. Our company emphasizes teamwork and mentorship, so all members of the company understand they are an equal part of the team. Additionally, many of our employees serve as mentors to high school and college students. Many have participated in STEM educational programs.
Celebrating this day reminds us how much progress our society has made. However, there’s still a lot to be done to continue to improve and press on to make advancements and create equal opportunities for women and girls. A.R. Brouwer is committed to doing its part in empowering women to pursue careers in construction.