Thousands of construction tradeswomen are gathering this month at conferences in three Asia cities—and in Minneapolis—to build diversity, solidarity, career growth and leadership for women in the industry globally.

They also seek support from employers and male peers for female craft recruitment, retention and entrepreneurship.

The Asian events—in Manila, Philippines; Sydney, Australia; and Papua, New Guinea—aim to draw more tradeswomen across developing countries and globally to link through efforts organized by Sisters in the Building Trades, a Seattle-based craft women advocacy group.

Set for October 13, the second annual Manila Tradeswomen Conference will help more than 300 Filipino women expand their construction and business skills though mentoring and a planned effort to start the first women-run union contracting company in the city, says Melina Harris, a Seattle union carpenter and president of Sisters in the Building Trades.

Site Survival

"We have packed a 20 ft. container with backpacks, boxes of tools, safety gear and training materials" for the TESDA Women’s Center, the only government vocational training center in the country for women, she says, noting Manila's building boom and "women's need to work in their communities and compete for jobs."

Says Harris: "Women in developing nations are being trained in the trades and then left trying to battle their way into jobs in the industry."  She says Filipino craftwomen earn about $10.37 per day.

According to Harris, there are no apprenticeships or pre-apprentice training in the Philippines akin to the U.S.

"We would like to enable women to have a year of on-the-job training to master their craft, much like our union apprentice training, before they end up as the only female struggling on a job site of 200 men," she says.

Organizers also seek unions and companies that have ventures and offices in those countries and "would like to partner, foster and sponsor this effort to boost global construction diversity," says Harris.

"We are working with the Philippine Commission on Women, the Dept. of Public Works and Highways, the Philippines National Union of Building and Construction Workers, the Building and Woodworkers International Federation, the Association of Women Workers in the Construction Industry, Habitat for Humanity, and other local agencies and nonprofits to find ways to address issues our sisters face getting into these nontraditional trades," says Harris.

The Filipino Secretary General of Vocational Education will again address this year's event.

The Australian Women in Trades Conference begins on October 18, in Sydney.

Conference sponsor SALT, Australia’s first nonprofit for tradeswomen, is also partner on the New Guinea Meri Trades Gathering in Papua on Oct. 26, which will be the country's first conference for tradeswomen, says Sisters in the Building Trades.

"We will be spending 6 days in Port Moresby learning of their challenges, issues, and proposed solutions," says Harris.

Harris and co-organizers seek organization, corporate and individual sponsorships of $100, $250, or $500 to cover costs of conference organizing and  tool and supply purchases. 

"We are in a historic effort with real tradeswomen in need," says Harris. "The more we can raise, the more impact we will have in growing the Tradeswomen Global Outreach into the future."

Harris says more details on the conference logistics and financial/supply assistance, or to partner are available at the Sisters in the Building Trades website.


The Minneapolis gathering, held Oct. 4-6, attracted more than a record attendance of 2,800 tradeswomen and building trades officials from across North America for programs and interactions to boost recruitment, education and support for female craft workers, and to push for anticipated North American infrastructure investment.

The 9th annual Tradeswomen Build Nations, hosted by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), is the world's largest tradeswomen conference, says the union group.  NABTU U.S. and Canadian executives are expected to speak.

The annual conference banner parade, held on Sat, Oct. 5,  featured attendees ""taking to the streets to promote diversity and inclusion in the building trades," say NABTU organizers