Special Focus: SMART sisters, allies build solidarity to strengthen our future at Tradeswomen Build Nations 2022

February 10, 2023

Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) is the largest conference of tradeswomen in the world, created by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) to help women in the construction industry achieve access, opportunity and equity at work. From October 28–30, 2022, more than 3,100 tradeswomen from across North America gathered in Las Vegas to share experiences and best practices with fellow tradeswomen, learn about new programs and opportunities in the industry, and to engage with top leaders from government, industry and the 15 largest international building trades unions.

The three-day conference featured two formal plenary sessions, a banner parade on the Las Vegas strip and over a dozen workshops on a range of topics addressing unique and critical issues faced by tradeswomen in the workforce.

The plenaries included powerful keynote speeches and remarks from NABTU President Sean McGarvey, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Labor Relations Manager Allison Ziogas, Las Vegas Raiders President Sandra Douglass Morgan, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, IUBAC International President Tim Driscoll, U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon and a host of others

Over 300 SMART sisters and allies attended the conference and participated in workshops covering a wide range of topics.

The “Women in Union Leadership” workshop was led by a panel of women in leadership positions across several unions, including Alicia Mijares from SM Local 104 (northern California). Panelists shared how they became leaders in the field, on committees and working in business managers’ offices. Each panelist outlined their journey, challenges, growth, highlights and recommendations for those in attendance.

Annet Del Rosario, a foreperson and member of SM Local 206 in San Diego, was part of a group of panelists discussing “Lean-In Circles For Women in the Trades.” Lean-in circles are comprised of small groups of women who come together to support each other and learn new skills — and help women amplify their power. The interactive workshop prompted attendees to connect with each other and learn how to advocate for themselves at work.

“…the energy in this room is unparalleled. All of these attendees are dedicated trade unionists and the lifeblood of our future. It is my privilege and honor to stand here with my sisters who are forging a path forward for our organization.” – SMART GP Joseph Sellers

“How to Be a Male Ally in the Construction Industry” was designed specifically for men attending the conference. It featured an all-male panel which discussed the crucial role male allies play in promoting gender equality at work. Attendees learned how to better advocate for tradeswomen, help improve jobsite environments and increase diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the construction industry.

Another panel discussed childcare strategies for women working in the trades. Childcare has served as a barrier to many women looking to establish a career in construction. With labor shortages present across the construction industry, attendees focused on how the unionized trades could take the lead on tackling this issue and open careers to a greater number of participants.

For the unionized share of the construction industry to thrive, everyone must have a seat at the table — women, young workers, veterans and historically marginalized communities — and that can only be accomplished through inclusion and solidarity. A session on that topic, featuring panelists from the IBEW, covered how these populations are an asset within the workforce. Workshop participants learned best practices for garnering the support of local union and national leadership, overcoming obstacles and building an environment where a culture of inclusiveness can expand.

According to SMART General President Joseph Sellers, who attended TWBN with SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell, “the energy in this room is unparalleled. All of these attendees are dedicated trade unionists and the lifeblood of our future.”

“It is my privilege and honor to stand here with my sisters who are forging a path forward for our organization,” he added.