Museum exhibit shows women in industry
A new exhibit at the MSU Museum takes a look at tradeswomen’s 30 year struggle for access and equality in the construction industry. The On Equal Terms exhibit, which opened on Sunday, is free to the public.
When Emettra Nelson enters the classroom, the construction management freshman notices a lot more men in the classroom than women.
As a woman entering a primarily male-dominated field of work, she said she plans to set the bar high for women in construction.
“Going into this field, I’m thinking I would like to change a person’s view, (showing them) that women can do anything that men can do,” she said.
On Sunday, the MSU Museum unveiled its latest exhibit in the Main Gallery, On Equal Terms by Susan Eisenberg, which illustrates many of the hardships women face entering the field of construction and other skilled trades. The exhibit will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through May 13.
MSU Museum Director Gary Morgan said the exhibit tackles issues regarding both gender and the work environment.
“No doubt a number of women who did make or try to make a career in construction certainly had to work hard at doing it,” he said. “A lot of this exhibit looks at the relationship between them and a very male-dominated industry.”
Nelson said in her field of study, she often encounters many of the same feelings expressed by women in the exhibit.
“Being a black female (in construction), I have most definitely felt out of the ordinary,” she said. “I definitely feel like I have to prove myself.”
Artist Susan Eisenberg — a faculty member at Brandeis University in Massachusetts — said after creating the elements of the exhibit in the early 1990s, including mixed-media elements such as construction equipment, she’s excited to bring it to MSU.
“It’s really raising the questions of treating people on equal terms and how we really create a fair environment where everyone is equal in the workplace,” she said.
With inspirational stories and struggles of women in construction throughout the years, Morgan said he noticed a personal touch to Eisenberg’s work.
“She explores a lot of that dynamically through (real-life) stories and direct sources,” he said.
Eisenberg said there are new elements to the exhibit, including women’s stories wallpapered under actual wallpaper and a poet’s mailbag telling the story of a woman’s struggles with rape while on the job.
“It’s a constantly evolving exhibit (based on) how I change perspective over time to adapt to a space,” Eisenberg said. “It changes on response to where the conversation about women in construction is heading.”
When it comes to choosing a vocation such as construction management, Nelson said she hopes women realize they don’t have to follow traditional roles.
“(Women) don’t have to settle for being what society thinks typically women should be,” she said. “I want women to be who they want to be and go for their goals, because that’s what I’m doing.”