Women make up only 10.8% of roles in the construction industry of California (U.S. Bureau of Labor). To level the playing field, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) started Camp NAWIC, supported by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the Future Construction Leaders Foundation. In this one-week summer program, roughly 80 girls in grades 7-12 get to learn key skills for construction trades.
Since SDG&E became a premier funder of the program in 2020, Camp NAWIC has been able to continue despite challenges and has celebrated its 15th year this summer. Sneha Parmar, Director of Transmission & Substation Operations at SDG&E, spoke at the graduation ceremony for the campers. She shared some of the obstacles she faced entering a male-dominated field and words of encouragement for the young women:
“We hope to help level the playing field for women in trades, STEM careers and other traditionally male dominated fields by providing strong female SDG&E employees to act as role models for young women… Women are naturally resourceful, strong, capable problem-solvers. You have taken the first steps to make our world a better place by reaching the potential of your talent and being a part of the innovations that shape our future.”
CEO, Caroline Winn, launched the #BeThatGirl program which pairs young women with STEM role models at SDG&E and supports local initiatives that increase diversity in our workforce. Sneha is a #BeThatGirl mentor and understands the importance of positive role models.
Creating equal opportunities for all genders means providing meaningful role models, increasing awareness to available careers and inspiring young women to combat biases they may encounter with confidence. At Camp NAWIC, girls get hands-on experience and an inside look at jobs they may have never heard of with industry experts. They learn key skills and even get to build model structures, install solar panels, learn to do tilework, plumbing, and electrical wiring. First-time campers are grouped as “Apprentices” and returning campers are dubbed, “Journeywomen”. All receive toolboxes and certificates at graduation, leaving with new friends and new skills.
One camper shared her work on a model structure with pride, “It makes me feel good to know that I built it. I didn’t have to buy it, I actually built it!”
Many campers expressed that they did not know if they would like construction work, but ended up liking it so much that now they want to pursue careers in the trades. This is why representation and access are pivotal. This camp experience has sparked a new interest and will put more talented individuals in careers that have declined in recruitment. SDG&E has an Equity Action Plan which commits to various milestones, including achieving stronger gender parity, especially in some of the more nontraditional roles.
One Camp NAWIC apprentice spoke to the perspective of women in construction work perfectly, “We belong here!”
To learn more about the Camp NAWIC experience, watch the video below or visit their website.
NAWIC statistics: https://www.nawic.org/statistics [nawic.org]