Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Washington will see an investment of $5.9 billion for projects to revamp critical infrastructure, develop clean energy and expand broadband access. These historic investments will spur our region’s economy, connect trained workers with top employers and reduce the disparities that persist in our society. If we don’t act thoughtfully, though, all areas of our economy risk losing out on these investments’ full potential. 

Women are 47% of the labor force, and the percentage of women ages 25-54 in the workforce is higher than ever. However, women still hold more low-wage jobs than men, including caregiving jobs. One way to improve women’s wages is to get them into higher-paying, nontraditional careers such as construction and manufacturing. The good news is that getting women into these jobs helps Washington’s employers, who tell us they need more skilled workers. In June, the Association of Washington Business wrote, “Finding qualified workers remains one of the top concerns for employers, with nearly 40% of businesses in AWB’s spring survey reporting they have positions they are unable to fill.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has decades of experience providing assistance for training and placing women in nontraditional occupations. The Biden-Harris administration has championed this work, directing federal agencies to make sure equity is a key piece of efforts to train and hire workers for jobs created by its federal investments.

ANEW, a Seattle-based organization that receives funding from the Women’s Bureau, prepares Washington women for a variety of skilled jobs in construction and works with contractors and unions to improve job site culture through the RISE Up 4 Equity program.

Melissa Godsey, an installer at Prime Electric and a first-year apprentice in Local 46, can attest to the difference this support makes: “I was fresh out of prison and looking for a future … [ANEW] gave me hope for my future and allowed me to start something that was life-changing. Today, it’s me living with my three kids and paying bills. I have something I’ve never had, a path to self-sufficiency. I’m proud of myself and amazed and grateful to this program.” 

It’s also important that we remember the care workers who support our families, businesses and communities by caring for children, older adults, people with disabilities and households. For too long, this work has been marginalized as “women’s work,” done either for low pay or no pay, but our society is now beginning to recognize that the care economy is a foundation on which the entire economy rests.

Washington residents should be proud that their state is one of 13 that have passed paid family- and medical-leave laws. Washington workers have also begun contributing to the WA Cares Fund, which will provide eligible workers with long-term care support beginning in 2026. But we could be doing even more.

While the U.S. unemployment rate remains low, we have an opportunity to do more to support workers and their families and ensure a diverse and productive workforce with skills that match employer demand. We should all commit ourselves to making sure that the 47% of Washington’s workforce who are women have the same opportunity to benefit from the good-paying jobs being created by federal funding and private-sector investment.