If she CAN'T see it, she can't be it

It's hard to believe that while we have celebrated female pioneers in so many other fields--women who broke through glass ceilings and advanced into business, politics, art, and science--we rarely acknowledge women breaking the mold in blue-collar trades. In the fight for occupational freedom for women, tradeswomen are indeed unsung heroes. Which is why we finally need to bring their faces, voices, and stories to the screen. We know their voices will embolden women everywhere, and inspire the next generation of girls and young women who never imagined themselves in these careers until now.

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EMPOWERING WORK = EMPOWERING WOMEN

HERE IS A STARTLING FACT: The most common job for a woman today is the same as it was 50 years ago: secretary. Defying the odds of a desk job and picking up power tools instead, women in trades are daring the rest of us to confront stereotypes that are still holding women back. The opportunities for women in building trades become more apparent when we look at the "traditional" jobs women are most likely to have. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly income of a union construction worker substantially exceeds sixteen out of the twenty most common occupations for women. Meanwhile, a career in the building trades requires no higher education--apprentices are paid to learn on the job. So for hard-working moms raising families, college graduates drowning in debt, or students whose abilities can't be contained to a classroom or can't afford college--these jobs are one of the few pathways to a real living wage.

 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics

2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics

But economic advantages aside, tradeswomen just love the challenge and satisfaction of building things. They love working with tools and materials, they love working outside, and they love pointing to a skyscraper or a bridge and being able to say, "I built that." And yes, they love their paycheck. So why do so few girls and young women consider a career in the trades? We think it's because if you can't see it, you can't be it. And a hard hatted woman is hard to see.

Invisible No More

 Even today, the most common cultural reference point we have for women doing skilled industrial labor is Rosie the Riveter, an 85 year-old icon. It speaks to the glaring scarcity of contemporary images of women in such jobs.

Even today, the most common cultural reference point we have for women doing skilled industrial labor is Rosie the Riveter, an 85 year-old icon. It speaks to the glaring scarcity of contemporary images of women in such jobs.

 “Tradeswoman” is an unknown word to most people that usually requires some definition—which then evokes a nearly unanimous response: “Oh, you mean like Rosie the Riveter!” The fact that Rosie, an 85-year old icon, is still the most common cultural reference point we collectively hold for a woman doing skilled manual labor, speaks to a glaring scarcity of contemporary images and a huge gap in our historical narrative. “Not like Rosie,” one might reply, “but like the thousands of women who are doing this work today, and who have been fighting for 40 years for the right to do it.”

Hard Hatted Woman is a celebration of these women. It acknowledges their struggle and honors their strength and endurance. It is a way of saying "I see you," and just like Rosie the Riveter, perhaps their image will inspire a new generation of women to break the mold.

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