woman construction worker

Rosie the Riveter and the Women in Construction

It may be unusual, but there are women facture for people to dwell in and enjoy. You can build their homes, offices, and places of work. Some people are simply born to be makers. And construction is one of the best fields of work for such people.

But, as a woman, you might hesitate to join the construction industry. It’s understandable because the construction industry is considered a man’s world. The heavy-lifting and hours upon hours of manual labour require a lot of strength and endurance. But that doesn’t mean that women can’t do these things as well.

There’s one woman who defied such doubt about women in the construction industry. And that woman is Rosie the Riveter. This is her story and how she influenced generations of women in the manual labour force. This may inspire you to pursue as well a career in the construction industry.

Rosie the Riveter’s Story

Some people may not realise this, but Rosie the Riveter is not a real person. Instead, she’s a media icon created to inspire women to join the workforce during World War II (WWII). Her red bandana with white polka dots and flexed arm are recognisable anywhere. Her popularity grew from there, though. Through the years, she slowly became the symbol of women’s representation and independence.

J. Howard Miller illustrated Rosie in 1942. But, at the time, the illustration was only titled, “We Can Do It!” She wasn’t called Rosie yet. Although the evidence isn’t concrete, many believe that Miller created her as a character for Westinghouse Electric Corporation. It was for a campaign to recruit women in the factories during the war.

Instead, the name Rosie came from a song, and a well-known painter and illustrator. The song was “Rosie the Riveter,” performed by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb in 1943. This song encouraged women as well to join the workforce. And then Norman Rockwell drew his own version of Miller’s character wherein she’s having a lunch break. Her lunch box bore the name, “Rosie.” This drawing appeared in the May 29, 1942 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Thus, people started calling her Rosie.

construction site

Women in the Workforce During WWII

At the height of the war in 1942, more and more men were getting shipped off to the battlefield. This left many vacancies in various industries. So it was natural for women to pick up the slack. They needed to make some money anyway to feed their kids, while their husbands fought in the war. At first, they took up jobs in offices and retail. But then factories started needing more manpower. So they called upon the women.

So women removed their aprons. Then they donned workers’ uniforms and protective goggles. They set down their soup ladles and exchanged them for welding machines. They fit right in the factories. They started knowing well that a diamond cup wheel for grinding concrete doesn’t involve having shiny rocks on their fingers.

Around five million women joined the workforce during the war. Those who worked in factories and built tanks, ships, planes, and other machinery were called “Rosies.”

What Happened to Rosie After WWII?

When the war ended, the surviving men came back home. They settled back into their lives, and they took over the jobs again. The Rosies were urged out of the factories that they worked in. Many of them moved to secretarial jobs in offices instead. The others went back home and settled into their jobs as homemakers.

By the end of the war, women made up only less than one percent of the workers in the construction industry. Today, there are new women who entered the industry. But their struggle for representation is still an uphill climb.

Women in the Construction Industry Today

Today, women in the construction industry make up 10.3 percent of the workforce. Although it’s still a low rate, it’s better than less than one percent. But this doesn’t mean that every woman in the construction industry is on the factory floor doing manual labour. In fact, most of them are holding desk jobs in the offices of the factories. Forty-five percent are working in sales. Thirty-one percent are in management. And only 21 percent are actually working in construction. The rest are working in service occupations and transportation.

You might find these low numbers discouraging. There really aren’t a lot of women working in the construction industry. But they’re still there. The work is challenging. But they love it, so they’re not going anywhere. You can join them in carrying the spirit of Rosie the Riveter.

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