When you think of ironworkers and electricians, pile drivers and pipe fitters, do you picture women in hard hats, reflective vests and steel-toe boots? Perhaps you should, because many construction tradeswomen are breaking ground in the historically male-dominated industry.  

Five of those women share their personal stories in “Hard Hatted Woman,” the first feature-length documentary about women in construction trades. The film acknowledges the struggle the women face and honors the important work they do each day. 

Ambra Melendez, welder and ironworker, NYC. “A good welder knows the weld. It’s like I have to become one with it. I’m putting my blood, sweat and tears into this thing, literally. This weld is me, it’s a reflection of me.”

Some of the women who work in construction trades do it for the money and benefits offered by union jobs. Others prefer working outside in the fresh air to sitting inside at a desk all day. Many of them enjoy the satisfaction that comes from working with their hands and building something tangible they can see and be proud of. None of them signed up for the stereotypes or outdated opinion that women shouldn’t be well represented on the job site. 

“Hard Hatted Woman” is the first feature-length documentary about women in construction trades.

It’s important for these stories to be told to help change the perception of the construction industry and attract the next generation of women to this rewarding career path. According to the results of a recent industry-wide study by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 80 percent of construction firms report that they’re having a tough time filling hourly craft positions that make up the bulk of the industry’s workforce. If young girls don’t know that a fulfilling career in construction exists for them, how can we expect them to choose it?  

Stephanie Ryznar, piledriver, Portland, OR. “I’m just not suited to office work. Working in the trades, I feel like I get to be myself, on my own terms. A lot of women out there might be really well suited to this kind of work, like I am, but they just don’t know these opportunities exist.”

Autodesk is proud to be a funding partner for “Hard Hatted Woman” and the initiative to shine a light on the women who choose to work in construction. Technology can be a powerful tool for tradeswomen to learn new skills and create new career paths for themselves within the industry. 

“Industry partners like Autodesk are essential to helping us fulfill the mission of the film,” said Lorien Barlow, director and producer of “Hard Hatted Woman.” “Our goal is to invigorate a dialogue around recruitment and retention of women in the construction industry and inspire bold and meaningful action to make sure jobsites are safe and fair for all workers.” 

“Hard Hatted Woman” cinematographer Autum Eakin shooting on location. The director and cinematographer worked as a close, two-woman team and filmed on nearly 10 job sites across the country, embedding with work crews for several days at a time.

We share Lorien’s passion for raising awareness of women in construction, not for the fact that they are women, but for the work they do and the incredible contributions they make to the industry. That’s why we provide and support programs and events that empower women in construction, helping them build plans to bring fresh ideas to their employers, which ultimately leads to more efficient and collaborative ways of working for the whole industry. 

One of those events is our Connect & Construct Summit at Autodesk University 2018, where we’ll hold a Women in Construction panel, screen a trailer of the film, and host a discussion with Lorien about preparing women in the field for career advancement. We hope you join us in Las Vegas to continue this important conversation.