On Equal Terms

Stella on ladder in art gallery with three women

AFL-CIO exhibit opening with IBEW Director of Civic and Community Engagement, Tarn Goelling, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, and artist activist Susan Eisenberg

Directed by Susan Eisenberg, the On Equal Terms Project draws on research, art, and personal testimony to analyze, convey, and address equity issues for women in historically-male occupations.

Susan EisenbergSusan Eisenberg directs the On Equal Terms Project.

Focusing on the construction industry, where women are only 3.4% of the workforce despite demonstrated capabilities and four decades of affirmative action, projects convey the situations and perspectives of women in these careers to policymakers and the general public, and encourage collaborative problem-solving by working tradeswomen, industry leaders, and government officials at the local and national levels. The significance and quality— especially in the union sector—of construction careers make them important, as well as illuminating workplace issues across all occupations.

Founded in 2007, the On Equal Terms Project developed and toured a 900-square-foot mixed media art installation, On Equal Terms, combining audio, poetry, found objects, photographs, historic artifacts and 3-D mixed media—including Stella, a life-sized figure on a ladder in a diamond hardhat—to bring viewers into the experiences of women who work on construction sites. The installation’s 2008 launch coincided with the 30th anniversary of federal affirmative action policies that, in 1978, opened construction jobs and apprenticeship programs to women.

New projects in 2018, for the 40th anniversary, include nonfiction and poetry books — We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction, With a New Preface and Stanley’s Girl — and an online exhibition that brings the physical installation into a more accessible digital format that allows for more content. On Equal Terms: gender & solidarity, an independently-hosted website with a landing page and 12 interactive rooms, celebrates achievements; examines discrimination, both deliberate and embedded; and invites viewers to use the past to develop Bold Ideas that ensure career pathways that treat everyone “on equal terms.”

Director Susan Eisenberg speaks widely on employment equity issues at conferences and universities, often combining poetry and visual arts with analysis. Venues include the International Labour Organization in Geneva, the U.S. Dept. of Labor in Washington D.C., IBEW International Women’s Conference, CLUW National Leadership Conference, and the NABTU-sponsored Women Build Nations conference. Grant support includes the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund, Mass Humanities, the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women, Berger-Marks Foundation, the WSRC’s SSP Program, and generous individual donors.

For more information, contact OnEqualTerms@brandeis.edu.