Sisters in the Brotherhood: Carpenters’ Union Campaign Drives More Women to Trade

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, along with its regional arms, has been working to attract more women to the trade through training programs and initiatives to encourage solidarity and community.

Although the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has the word “brother” in its name, the group has a message for women: You’re welcome here.

In recent years, the trade union has taken steps to encourage more women to join the  trade and has aimed to build support for women carpenters through its Sisters in the Brotherhood program.

Since announcing the program a few years ago, the union has created a short film to highlight the work of women in the field and a number of regional organizations affiliated with the union—including the Mid-Atlantic Carpenters’ Training Center, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, and the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters—which run pre-apprentice programs targeted at introducing women to the trade.

Just 2 percent of all carpenters nationally are women. “For the most part, most women don’t grow up thinking, ‘OK, I want to be a carpenter,'” said Susan Schultz, head of the Eastern branch of Sisters in the Brotherhood, in comments to The Baltimore Sun. “We’re trying to change that image.”

The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, in particular, has heavily supported the initiative, making it a focus of the council’s recent website redesign and holding an event last month that honored both current and retired women carpenters. The event drew attention to 14 “pioneer sisters” who have worked in the industry for more than two decades.

In an interview with The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, New York, Northeast Regional Council spokeswoman Nicole Grodner said the initiative could help strengthen the union movement as a whole.

“We strongly feel that women and minorities are going to save the labor movement, almost,” she said.

(Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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