Hard Hatted Woman is the first feature documentary film about women in the unionized building trades. They are less than 3% of the construction workforce, yet a few pioneering women continue to pursue this daunting and non-traditional career path. Many of them are seeking economic empowerment; union construction jobs offer better wages and benefits than most of the leading occupations for women. Others are drawn to the innate satisfaction of physically and technically demanding work. But all of them end up fighting to advance in a hyper-masculine arena where only the bold have entered and even fewer will succeed. Lingering myths and stereotypes about women's aptitudes and abilities prevent untold numbers of women from entering the trades, and cause many to leave.
Taking the viewer into the grit and intensity of construction sites, Hard Hatted Woman follows five women through their daily experiences both on and off the job, creating intimate portraits that reveal how each woman navigates the work’s physical and emotional challenges, how they shape her, and how she decides to shape them back. In an industry where discrimination, sexism, racism, and homophobia are part of everyday culture, the women must find strategies for coping and resistance, survival and activism. At the heart of their struggle is an enduring passion for the work itself—pride of craft, joy of building, love of trade.
The narrative connects their compelling personal stories to a broader movement of tradeswomen, labor organizers, and long-time activists uniting to keep these non-traditional doors open for women. The film depcits the complex challenges of reforming this industry and the broader political and cultural forces that frame the struggle. Federal attempts to integrate the industry have not achieved their goal, but tradeswomen and allies continue to search for strategies to finally break through one of the last frontiers for working women. Looking back over the history of the movement, the film asks how far we've come, and where we go from here.