Wellesley College has been a remarkable launching pad for many successful women: among them, former Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 and Madeleine Albright ’59. Both politicians spoke this summer at Wellesley’s 2019 alumni celebration, inspiring fellow graduates to pursue greater opportunities.
But Wellesley, in a departure from its original mission, is failing to prioritize key opportunities for women to work with equitable pay on its own campus. The College is updating and rebuilding the Science Center with help from a contractor that does not guarantee women equal pay nor opportunity.
This failure has prompted female construction workers to launch a coordinated ad campaign to educate the Wellesley and the larger community about the disconnect between the College’s supposed values and subsequent actions. We will see ads on TV, newspapers, Snapchat, Facebook and on Google protesting Wellesley’s decision to discourage tradeswomen from the high profile project.
Wayne J. Griffin Electric is a contractor that is notorious for its unfair treatment toward women employees. The IBEW Local 103, a Boston-based labor union, find the decision to work with an openly sexist company disappointing, especially from a college that claims to prioritize women’s advancement in the workplace.
Griffin has a history of exploiting female workers by placing them on high-paying jobs to fill a diversity quota, only to pull women off projects and send them to lower-paying jobs once the quota is met. This creates a sizable pay gap.
Female construction workers at IBEW Local 103 are always paid the same wage as their male coworkers, for the same work, erasing the pay gap completely. That’s why 96 percent of Massachusetts women electrical workers are members of IBEW Local 103: they know they are guaranteed equal treatment, training, compensation and space for advancement as men.
Unfortunately, Wellesley’s decision to work with Griffin means that none of these women will have the chance to work on the new campus development.
I want other women construction workers to have the same opportunities that I have had, and that means we must depend on employers like Wellesley College to partner with us. IBEW Local 103 provides opportunities for women who may not have a four-year college degree to grab a foothold in the middle class. High-profile institutions like Wellesley College — known for lifting up their students and alumnae — should help expand opportunities for these women too.
But right now, women construction workers find themselves asking, “What about me, Wellesley?”
If the college wanted to support all women, they would start at home, by making sure women have an opportunity to help build the college as they build a middle-class life for their families, with good wages and secure benefits. Wellesley leadership should ensure every subcontractor on campus supports and validates Wellesley community standards: equal pay and opportunity for women.
Tradeswomen have reached out to Wellesley College President Paula Johnson, and have engaged with students and alumnae during this summer’s Reunion weekend. Alumnae were overwhelmingly supportive of our concerns.
The pay gap is alive and well, in part due to contractors who fail to adhere to standards for pay equity. In 2018, non-union electrical companies paid women electricians about 86 cents on the dollar versus men’s pay, an unacceptable margin. Wellesley College should ensure equal pay for everyone working on their campus.
The Wellesley College community should lift up all women, not just those who enroll in its classes. For more information on women construction workers’ desire to build Wellesley College’s Science Center, please visit WhatAboutMeWellesley.com