Vermont nonprofit promotes gender equity with power tool training

SOUTH BURLINGTON — When Julia Bessy first walked into a workshop run by nonprofit Vermont Works for Women, she had never picked up a power tool before.

“I’m actually visually impaired. So I can’t see like the average person sees. So walking into this, I was like, ‘Oh my God. How can I make power tools as a visually impaired person? ‘” Bessy said.

After a day of practice with circular saws, jigsaws, power drills, etc., Bessy came to a new conclusion: “It’s not as scary as I thought.”

The workshop was held Nov. 11 at the North Atlantic States Carpenters Union’s South Burlington workshop as training for staff of the nonprofit organization, whose work involves improving the economic status of women and gender non-conforming people in Vermont.

“We promote economic justice by advocating for gender equity and also supporting women and girls, as well as adults and gender-broad youth, at all stages of their professional journeys,” the official said. of the program, Paige Ruffner.

A participant uses a puzzle during a Vermont Works for Women workshop on November 11, 2022.

Training for construction trades

The non-profit organization works with women from all walks of life, including young women and girls, older women changing careers, incarcerated women, and more. One of the organization’s areas of focus is expanding access to construction and trades jobs.

According to a 2019 report by the Vermont State Agency on Women, of the 7,775 people working in installation, maintenance, and repair in Vermont, only 311 are women. The small number of women in these jobs are relatively well paid, with a median annual income of $63,594, but represent only 4% of all people in these lucrative professions.

“Vermont has so many opportunities when it comes to future career paths, and the more we can specifically expose girls to those, we can move that number by 4%,” executive director Rhonni Basden said.

A participant uses a power drill during a Vermont Works for Women workshop on November 11, 2022.

Vermont Works for Women’s Trailblazers program offers 7 weeks of training for women 16 and older. Female teachers teach skills in construction, electrical, plumbing, manufacturing, and more.

The program promises a safe, non-judgmental environment for women to learn new skills. At staff training Nov. 11, led by Trailblazers instructor Tammy Ellis, attendees cheered and cheered as they successfully sawed through a plank of wood or pulled a nail from a pallet.

“It’s not just about providing a job or a training program. It’s really about creating supportive environments,” Basden said.

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A participant uses a circular saw during a Vermont Works for Women workshop on November 11, 2022.

The exclusion of women from high-paying male-dominated fields, including the trades, is a major reason for the gender pay gap in Vermont, according to the Vermont Commission on Women’s 2019 report. .

Poverty rate for single women in Vermont Poverty rate for single men in Vermont
Without minor children 11.4% 3.5%
With minor children 36.7% 16%
With minor children under the age of five 47.1% 14%
Comparison of VT poverty rate, by family type (US Census Bureau American Community Survey—Five Year Estimates, 2013-2017)

The median salary of Vermont women is about $8,000 less than that of men, a difference of 16%, according to the 2019 report. This difference is 20% in Chittenden County, 24% in Grand Isle and more than 25% in Orleans County.

Contact April Fisher at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia

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