During WWII when men left for war, American women filled a labor shortage and filled jobs traditionally held by men. The iconic image of Rosie the Riveter was born, a strong, capable woman, able to swing a hammer just like a man.  Rosie the Riveter, and the countless women who came after her, show that women are capable of anything they set their minds to.

The Women Can Build project uplifts women’s leadership and contributions to the transportation industry and highlights the hardworking women who build America’s buses, trains, roads, and bridges. Evoking the spirit of Rosie the Riveter in a modern context, the project aims to bring to the forefront women who CAN build — America’s transportation systems and anything they set their minds to — with hard work, determination, strength, and commitment.

Modern photographs by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Historical photographs courtesy Library of Congress

Produced by Jobs to Move America

While significant progress has been made in the fight for gender equity, we still have a long way to go. 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 Hispanic women and nearly one in five Black women work full-time and earn less than $20,000 per year, which falls well 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.  If companies increase women’s access to good jobs, they can help close the wage gap and improve women’s economic security.

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. The Women Can Build project embodies this spirit and aims to empower women by elevating their integral role in the U.S. economy.