HARD HATTED WOMEN is a Cleveland-based group dedicated to promoting equal opportunity for women in the skilled trades; the organization's most visible work has been in the field of construction. Hard Hatted Women was founded in 1979 as a support group by three tradeswomen and was modeled after a Pittsburgh group with the same name. This nonprofit, membership-based organization is governed by a board of directors. Originally it was staffed by volunteers and shared space with other organizations. Since 1989 there has been a permanent office, and since 1990 the office has been staffed.
Hard Hatted Women has undertaken three major projects since about 1990, as it evolved from an all-volunteer support group to an advocate for women in non-traditional job positions. One is a Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, which prepares women to enter a skilled-trades program. Their "See Jane Build" project, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, involved the construction of a house in the inner city. It was the first Habitat for Humanity House built entirely by women. Hard-Hatted Women is credited, through their Equal Employment Opportunity Monitoring Project, with helping the GATEWAY construction project achieve a national record in female participation.
In 1999-2000 Hard Hatted Women was contracted by the U.S. General Services Administration to provide assistance and support in meeting Affirmative Action goals for gender diversity at the construction site of Cleveland's new federal courthouse.
In addition to offering educational services and job referrals, Hard Hatted Women holds monthly meetings and issues a bimonthly newsletter (since 1980) called "Riveting News." In September 2003, the organization moved from its Lorain Avenue office to a space at 3043 Superior Avenue.
That same year, after a dispute over the role of the organization as an advocate for blue-collar working women, several members split off from Hard Hatted Women and formed Allied Cleveland Tradeswomen, which works to support female apprentices and to prevent tradeswomen from leaving their fields before they reach retirement age. The two organizations continue to work together on joint projects.
At the end of 2005, the organization eliminated several positions, leading a group of members to file suit in order to force an election of officers and board members. After several legal delays, the suit was eventually dropped.
In 2007, under executive director Debbi Perkul, Hard Hatted Women served 400 members and worked toward the inclusion of more women on construction sites and to helping women gain access to the sustainable-energy production and micro-electro-mechanical systems fields.