IW General Organizer for Diversity on climbing the ranks and the TWBN conference

The construction industry has been male-dominated and continues to be this way. Despite this fact, women are making steady progress in the industry.

International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers General Organizer for Diversity Vicki O’Leary joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss the upcoming Tradeswomen Build Nations conference and how she came up through the trades as an Ironworker.

Working up the ladder as an Ironworker

O’Leary first discussed getting involved in the trade. She said her Ironworker father and brother were discussing work and she gained an interest in the trade. She set out to prove that she could do the same work they were talking about.

She was later accepted into the Ironworkers registered apprenticeship program. Local 1 had recently taken in five female apprentices and put them all on one job. She said it was a great experience and helped her get comfortable in the trade, but she did not have a job with that many women for a long time.

She then began looking for ways to climb the ranks within the union. She applied for jobs within her local that did not require election, but did not have any luck.

O’Leary said she then obtained three bachelors degrees and began sending her resume to the International Union. Finally in 2016 she had a meeting with General President Eric Dean, who offered her a job as a district representative.

After working in this capacity she moved up to organizer and director of diversity.

In 2016, she was tasked with developing a maternity leave program for Ironworkers. She managed to get a program approved that includes six months of paid maternity leave before and after birth. The Ironworkers are the only building trades International Union to have such a policy.

Tradeswomen Build Nations

As the chair of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), O’Leary said she is very excited for the virtual event, taking place on Saturday, October 17.

She previewed the speaker lineup and said that there are some surprises that people will not want to miss.

Lastly, O’Leary said she would love to see more women get involved with the building trades. She said the wages and benefits will help women support themselves as well as providing for their families. She added that she would love to see the number of women in the trades double within the next few years.

If you would like to register for the virtual conference, click here.


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