Sarah was just one of the many working women in Oregon who, despite working full-time, was still living below the poverty line. In fact, one third of working women in Oregon head households that live in poverty. Women’s economic security in Oregon is further threatened due to the low rate of high school graduation, ranking us 48th in the nation, lack of affordable housing (47th), and the persistent wage gap –factors which all contribute to an economically fragile demographic.
In 2018, Oregon Tradeswomen made changes to our training program in order to better serve women like Sarah, who simply needed a hand up – not a hand out – in learning new skills that lead to high-wage employment in the skilled trades. Through our Pathways to Success program, our retention services, public policy work, and career education sessions, we were able to serve more women experiencing poverty than ever before, including women with significant barriers to employment. We’ve increased our capacity, we’ve removed impediments to accessing our program, and we’ve increased services so we can help more women change their lives.
In reflecting upon this past year, I am pleased to share that Oregon Tradeswomen has made good progress creating economic opportunity for more women, shifting workplace culture, and addressing systemic and policy barriers which hindered access, opportunity, and equity for women like Sarah. We embarked on a new path, yet one which honors our founding sisters’ vision and mission to promote success for women and girls in the trades. Through a year-long process, which included input from funders, community partners, industry, tradeswomen, program graduates and policy-makers, we have developed a Blueprint for Prosperity, our three-year strategic plan. While it will guide us forward, this document will live and be responsive to both opportunities and challenges which may come our way as we continue to grow and broaden our reach.
Through this plan, we will work ever harder, and more strategically, to serve more women like Sarah who now makes a family-supporting wage and has transitioned from reliance on public benefits to economic independence. Oregon Tradeswomen will continue to be a part of the regional, statewide, and national conversation about the importance of investing in racial and gender equity for our workforce, and the critical need to have good public policy to support such efforts. We will work to be the change we seek.
We invite you to join us in 2019 – come celebrate 30 years of success with us this year! And as we ring in the New Year, and a new path for Oregon Tradeswomen, join us in helping to transform lives.
My sincere gratitude to all of our partners and supporters for all that you do, in 2018 and always, in service of our mission. We look forward to seeing you in 2019 and wish you a Happy, Healthy, and Joyful New Year!