Oregon Tradeswomen was founded on principles that women should have access to training, education, and career pathways in blue-collar industries as a means to economic self-sufficiency. Beginning in the 1970s, women began to organize nationally to impact federal public policy, as well as at the local level to bring about much needed changes for women working in the skilled trades and other “nontraditional” jobs. Here in Portland, a small support group was founded in 1989, led by four tradeswomen, (an elevator constructor, two carpenters and an operating engineer), later forming Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., in 1999. That elevator constructor was Connie Ashbrook, founding Executive Director, who built the organization from its early foundation to where it stands today – an integral nonprofit partner working to ensure access, opportunity, and equity for women across our community and the country as a whole.
After dedicating her life’s work to the organization and to the tradeswomen movement, Connie Ashbrook retired this summer, building a foundation and legacy of which she can be extremely proud. All of us at Oregon Tradeswomen are honored and grateful that Connie has graciously committed to continue to contribute her time, talent, and expertise as Executive Director Emeritus, contributing to special projects for Oregon Tradeswomen as we move our work and vision forward.
As the new Executive Director, I am excited to be a part of Oregon Tradeswomen, and the tremendous community of which we are a member. As Connie “passed the torch” to me just a few short weeks ago, I have reflected on the privilege that comes with being engaged in work you love, for which you have a passion, and for being able to help make the world a better place. I recognize the big shoes I must try to fill in carrying this important work forward. While I don’t know everything, I do know that this community has shown dedicated support of the great work of Oregon Tradeswomen and that the work of our mission cannot be done alone.
In that, we invite you to continue to build with us, as we set a bold vision for our future. In the coming year we look forward to expanding our programming across Oregon to reach more women – especially those in rural communities. Deepening our commitment and our reach into our communities of color as we adopt and implement a racial justice plan. Forging new relationships with industry stakeholders in manufacturing, transportation, and other nontraditional occupations and industries to increase opportunities for women. Increasing our capacity to provide technical assistance to support our partners in achieving diversity, inclusion, and equity. Responding to the new challenges and opportunities in our community through engaged and intentional collaboration. Building a shared wealth creation model so all the members of our community may prosper. Please join us as we move forward with a bold vision for change. I look forward to doing good work together.