Smith College sets representation goals for Neilson construction team

Photo by Samuel Masinter via Smith College || Construction work is a field largely dominated by men, despite good benefits.

Photo by Samuel Masinter via Smith College || Construction work is a field largely dominated by men, despite good benefits.

Sowon Yoon ’21
Copy Editor

Last Thursday, the Study of Women and Gender and Engineering Departments hosted a forum on diversity in the construction force. At the “Only 3% Are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” talk on Feb. 15, panelists and representatives of the administration discussed the necessity of a more diverse representation of women and people of color in the construction industry.

In order to achieve the diversity, some members of the student body called for the college to set up a goal representation percentage for women and people of color in the construction company they choose to build the new Neilson Library, which the administration announced its plans for at the forum.

Many students showed up last Thursday to Weinstein Hall to hear why the construction industry can provide many marginalized people viable chance for financial security and benefits.

However, construction work is highly male-dominated and female workers often find it hard to get into the industry, with only three percent of the total population within construction industry being female.

The panelists present were Janet Butler, owner and president of Federal Concrete Inc. of Hopedale; carpenters Lily Thompson of Plainfield and Tyeka Robinson of Springfield and third-year carpentry apprentice Theresa Copeland of Northampton. Robinson is also a union steward, whose job helps her support other women in the industry. Moderator was Susannah Howe, senior lecturer in engineering and director of a collaborative program in the Picker Engineering Program. Many other construction workers were present in the audience to show their support.

After hearing the panel speak, Smith students were thrilled to learn from Roger Mosier, head of facilities, that the college has set a representation percentage goal for the team that will work on the construction of Neilson Library. The goal is to have 7 percent female, 16 percent people of color in the workforce and 12 percent combined representation of minority-and women-owned business involved in the costly project.

However, Maddy Troilo ’21 was concerned with the long-term implication of the representation goal set up during the talk, wishing to pressure Smith College into taking further action. She asked if the college would be willing to set the percentages as a goal to reach for in other future construction projects as well.

Mosier, head of facilities at Smith College, did not give a definitive answer.

Many students had positive opinions on how the talk and Smith students had pressured the college into taking its motto of empowering women into real action.