Extra training for women in trades includes dealing with sexual harassment

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It is an unfortunate reality for some women-workplace sexual harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault.

There is a training program in Chicago that prepares women for the technical skills needed to work in the trades and how to deal with unwanted situations on the job.

As the women welders maintain focus on the electrode, arc and spatter spray from the steel weld. Learning skills like these will allow them opportunity to work in good-paying jobs.

But for this group of women welders, there is something else they need to learn.

Students at Chicago Women in Trades also prepare for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Instructors help the women create a plan if they encounter something inappropriate.

"Sometimes you say, 'Hey would you say that to your mother? Would you say that if your mother was standing here? Would you want somebody to say that to your wife or your spouse,'" said Lauren Sugerman, Director of Chicago Woman in Trades.

Lauren Sugerman started Chicago Women in Trades in 1981. As an elevator constructor herself, Sugerman was harassed by male co-workers.

"Being in an elevator cab, you know, the only female and guys telling rape jokes in front of me. I had a guy grab my breasts getting on to a skip hoist," Sugerman said.

Tradeswomen may be working in isolated environments and the distraction of harassment can create dangerous situations as their work itself can be hazardous.

"When you're welding you have to have the proper weld and if something's bothering you it's going to show in your weld," said Guadalupe Hinojosa, a Chicago Women in Trades student.

This mother of four is changing careers and understands there will be challenges.

"I can hope that I can go in and just do my job. Just weld. It's my passion that I have and frankly I love it, I'm not going to give it up," said Hinojosa.

These women hope to be ready to navigate unwanted behavior in the workplace and -- above all-- have the strength and technical skills do the work.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.