New York — In honor of Women’s History Month, Jobs to Move America and the New York City Department of Transportation announced today the launch of the Women Can Build photography exhibit revealing the overlooked contributions of the skilled and hard-working women building our 21st Century transportation — including trams, rail, buses, bridges and roads.
Making a strong visual statement, the Women Can Build photography exhibit will be running from March 8 – May 15 in the Financial District in two outdoor locations: 1) on DOT Art’s art display cases at Water Street and Gouveneur Lane and 2) at the corner of Water Street and Pearl Street. The exhibit features 16 “Modern Rosies,” taken by Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice, in addition to historic photographs of WWII-era “Rosie the Riveter” manufacturing workers from the Library of Congress.
Jobs to Move America started the project in 2015. “It is more important than ever for us to ensure women have good jobs and supportive work environments. Our aim with this show is to influence manufacturers to hire, train and retain more women in their factories, said Madeline Janis, Executive Director of Jobs to Move America.
“DOT Art’s Art Display Case and the Jobs to Move America program together provide ideal ‘canvases’ to showcase the critical work that women in transportation do,” said NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “From Emily Roebling’s management of the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge to here at DOT, where three successive women Commissioners have led the agency since 1999, New York’s women have played a significant role in advancing our transportation. I am excited that New Yorkers will learn even more about the invaluable contribution women make to transportation — in a fun, engaging and compelling way.”
“Women have helped shape our city’s infrastructure, and I am thrilled that this exhibit highlights these contributions in transportation, manufacturing and beyond,” said New York State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou. “It is critical that we both continue to expose young women to diverse careers and industries, and stand for equal opportunities in the workplace. I commend DOT and Jobs to Move America for helping organize this photography exhibit in lower Manhattan.”
“Celebrating Women’s History Month means fully valuing women workers. The Women Can Build photography exhibit re-envisions our historic image of Rosie the Riveter, working on 21st century infrastructure projects. These stunning images tell incredible stories of women in the labor movement, and demonstrate the critical, dynamic roles that women play in our workforce. Congratulations to the NYC Department of Transportation and Jobs to Move America on launching this wonderful exhibit,” said NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-Chair of the NYC Council Women’s Caucus.
“The hard working woman of the transportation industry exemplifies what it means to help our City run. Without the contributions of these workers, the public transportation system that millions of people rely on today would not be available, and I hope this exhibits helps to inspire a new generation of transportation advocates, drivers and other professionals so we can continue to improve on what these great woman have built. I would like to thank Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and all the organizations who supported this effort, to help us celebrate these woman during Women’s History Month,” said NYC Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor.
While significant progress has been made in the fight for gender equity, the exhibit calls attention to the great distance we still have to go. Advancing women’s economic empowerment requires a long-term commitment and broad approach to policies and programs that uplift women and remove barriers to opportunity. Although women serve as the primary or co-breadwinner in half of American families, they represent the majority of full-time workers earning poverty wages. For instance, one in four Latina women and nearly one in five Black women work full-time and earn less than $20,000 per year, below the federal poverty line for a family of four.
The manufacturing industry is facing a severe skills gap, a problem compounded by an aging workforce. The Women Can Build project calls on companies to provide opportunities for women, especially women of color, by expanding their labor pool and opening up access to jobs by working with labor unions and community organizations specialized in workforce development, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship training.
Some of the women featured in the photo exhibit:
Elisangela Oliveira, a bridge painter for the New York City Department of Transportation.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years, since I was 19-years-old. I started out in an apprenticeship program with the Bridge Painters Union, Local 806. After three years as an apprentice, I became a journeywoman, and then a forewoman. After that, I worked as a supervisor and in quality control. I did a lot of big jobs for many years. I believe that women can do anything. Whatever men can do, women can do. Women can build, and do things like paint bridges because we have the strength and the patience.”
Elizabeth Perry, an electrical work leader at Alstom Transportation Inc., in Hornell, New York.
Originally from Almond, New York, Elizabeth started out as a “cleaning lady” in 1986 and rose up the ranks to become an electrical work leader, focusing primarily on electrical work. Workers at the Hornell factory are members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 2471.
Anne Latham, a manufacturing specialist at Alstom Transportation Inc., in Hornell, New York.
Anne followed in her mother’s footsteps after graduating high school and began working at Alstom in 1988. She started out as a “cleaning lady” at the railcar manufacturing facility where she stripped down old rail cars. After a decade, Anne moved into the electrical field. “I am now in the retention warehouse and responsible for all the parts that are removed from the car in a rebuilding contract. I make sure they are ready to go back to the car when it’s time to rebuild.”