ENR named Iron Workers (IW) General Organizer for Safety and Diversity Vicki O'Leary a 2018 top 25 newsmaker. The honor is in recognition of her groundbreaking work through the organization's initiatives to level the playing field for ironworker women and her leadership in the building trades.
IW General President Eric Dean brought O’Leary on board to spearhead diversity initiatives in 2016. "Vicki is passionate about changing the culture to ensure ironworker women are on an equal footing," says Dean. "She's a dynamic individual who gets things done."
O’Leary took the lead in launching several innovative IW initiatives to expand diversity. The IW and employer-ironworker partnership IMPACT launched a paid maternity leave program, the first of its kind in the building trades. But O’Leary did not stop there. She worked with the leadership to rollout the "Be That One Guy" program to fight workplace harassment that threatens safety and productivity. "It is a safety issue" says O’Leary. "Workplace harassment is a dangerous distraction and in our line of work, you can't afford to be distracted. When ironworkers are distracted from their work, which is full of potential hazards, it could lead to accidents."
The program enlists male workers to take a stand against bullying and harassment of any kind. "We want them to not be afraid to speak up and tell a bully to knock it off," says O’Leary.
The program is multifaceted. Town hall meetings will be held under the program to encourage an open forum for dialog and education. O’Leary worked to include bystander training and intervention best practices and protocols in key IW safety training programs, such as new officers, shop stewards and safety director training, which will be expanded to local union managers in 2019. O’Leary and the IW leadership believe such initiatives will not only make jobsites safer but also improve retention of women.
O’Leary is also the chairwoman of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen's Committee. Through her leadership, NABTU's Women Build Nations conference has become the premier industry event for education and support for tradeswomen. She continues to extend Iron Workers’ innovation and leadership in safety and diversity to building trades through her role in the NABTU committee.