More than 70 Los Angeles Local 11 sisters attended a Women's Luncheon in March, held at the Electrical Training Institute.

With a near unprecedented amount of work on the horizon, Los Angeles Local 11 is leaving no stone unturned in expanding its efforts to recruit and retain more women members.

Local 11 sisters and pre-apprentices are encouraged to attend monthly EMPOWER meetings, hosted by ETI Special Projects Assistant Anthy Hadjimarkos. The meetings often have about 50 attendees and provide a wealth of information as well as meals.

"I know that women are interested in the trades. It just takes a different kind of approach to ensure they feel welcome," said Anthy Hadjimarkos, special projects assistant with the Electrical Training Institute. "The proof is in the numbers."

Hadjimarkos chairs the ETI Mentorship Program Offering Women Extra Resources, or EMPOWER. Its mission is to "recruit, retain and support female apprentices and journey-level workers in our local." Attendance at the program's monthly meetings, which are geared toward engaging pre-apprentices, has gone from about three to five attendees to more than 50 since she took over as chairwoman in 2022.

With a background as an inside wirewoman, then full-time instructor, she has a wealth of experience to offer.

"It gives me the understanding of what it feels like to have boots in the field, what it takes mentally to survive in this industry and what we give to be members," said Hadjimarkos, a 17-year member of Local 11.

Knowing that members are coming in after a hard day's work, Hadjimarkos pours a lot of energy into creating a welcoming space and offering useful information, as well as high-value raffle prizes and a dinner that includes vegetarian options.

"I am genuinely excited to run the meetings," she said. "I have been to so many workshops and classes where you can sense that the host or instructor is just getting through the material and isn't enjoying it. I don't want to waste anyone's time. Everyone there sees me at a peak level of energy."

Much of the content is designed for IBEW sisters, like having guest speakers on personal protective equipment specifically designed for women. But Hadjimarkos stresses the meetings are open to men as well, with some even bringing their daughters.

"We need men — they are a key element of recruiting and retaining," she said. "We need their support."

Hadjimarkos' work with EMPOWER is complemented by Local 11's Solidarity Committee, which recently received its official IBEW Women's Committee charter and has a newly elected executive committee. Last year, they raised enough money to send more than 30 women to the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in Washington, D.C., said Director of Women Recruitment and Support Diana Limon, who oversees the Committee.

Limon, a 29-year member and the first woman to receive the Outstanding Apprentice Award in 2000, assumed the newly created director's role in 2023, in part because of the expected increase in work stemming from Biden administration legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Local 11 also has a goal of getting to 10% of its membership identifying as women. Nationally, about 3%-4% of construction tradespeople are women.

Fortunately for Local 11, it's long been active in the community and can count on its women members to show up at events and help with recruitment.

"It's important for women and girls to see people who look like them and who are visible in leadership," said Limon, who also assists Local 11 with complying with job requirements on public projects. "Then women know they can move up too."

Limon said one recruitment tool that's been particularly successful is the construction wireman program. It's a good way for women to get in the door: While getting into an apprenticeship can take months, the CW program gets them working faster.

"They usually love the work once they're in," Limon said. "It's less pay at first, but mostly it's a huge advantage. And it increases their credibility."

Local 11's commitment to recruiting women includes a revamping of the apprentice application process that removes the interview component and makes it more merit-based.

"It takes out the unconscious bias," Business Manager Robert Corona said. "It gives everyone an equal opportunity based on experience level."

Corona also noted that the local is not just looking to recruit more women but to retain them as well.

"It's a big issue," he said. "We're always asking what we can do to help them stay."

Part of that work is going through the local's list of delinquent members and contacting them to see what's going on and how the local can help. Local 11 leadership also is considering providing child care, both for union meetings and for when women members are on the job. Part of that child care assistance comes from California's Equal Representation in Construction Apprenticeship, or ERiCA, grant that aims to create career pathways for women, nonbinary and underserved populations.

"We want to retain the women we're able to get, and child care is a crucial part of that," Corona said. "We're also looking at getting union-represented child care workers."

ERiCA also offers support to EMPOWER.

"It's a gamechanger for the ETI," Hadjimarkos said. "I regularly have discussions with the regional outreach coordinator where I get to share ideas for women's outreach with training directors from other locals."

Hadjimarkos said the grant is funding the creation of a new workshop called Future Artisans of Bending that will focus on improving conduit bending skills.

"We like to give our members additional support and expertise to make sure they have the skills they need to excel in the field," she said.

Limon said that Local 11 has built relationships with several organizations, like 2nd Call, which works with at-risk members of the community, including those returning from incarceration, and Habitat for Humanity's Women Build Project, which encourages women from all backgrounds to participate in home building.

Local 11 also participates in Women in Construction Week and held its first luncheon for the occasion this year, with more than 70 women attending. Its No. 1 recruiting ground, though, is Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles. WINTER is a free pre-apprenticeship program that focuses exclusively on getting more women into the unionized construction trades.

"We believe in what they're doing to graduate pre-apprentices who have a good idea about what it takes to become a great apprentice and the drive to do so," said Hadjimarkos, who added that the local's Electrical Workers Minority Caucus chapter has worked with WINTER by donating several hand benders.

Limon and Hadjimarkos both stressed the importance of having buy-in from leadership in creating the success that the local has achieved, including having a number of women on staff.

"Our organizational culture has shifted," Hadjimarkos said. "People are more open to listening to those who are different from them because they're mirroring the inclusive example set by our leaders."

Limon said there remain cultural stereotypes that need to be dealt with but added that they don't tend to run as deep as they used to. And by addressing issues like proper-fitting PPE, accessible bathrooms and child care, women are feeling increasingly more welcome.

"It used to be like an exclusive club. Now, you can walk into our apprenticeship on any given day and it looks like L.A.," Limon said.