Women in Trades: Shatter the Stereotypes

A recent article in the Globe explored the concept of increasing the number of women who work within skilled trades. The article explains that the number of women working in trades is significantly less than men.

“In fact, men accounted for 93.4 per cent of all trades workers in 2011, with this proportion not having changed materially over the past two decades.”

The fact that Canada’s labour market has a shortage of skilled workers has been well documented throughout the news over the past several years. The author suggests formal targets be established for women in trades and that the concept be discussed more broadly. She goes on to say, “The women in these jobs may be small in number today, but they are powerful in the message they send to others. They can become the role models for other women coming behind them and when more girls in high schools can see themselves in a skilled trade, we will see participation rates increase and women will reap the benefits these careers offer.”

Colleges in Ontario are doing more than joining the discussion. They are developing and promoting skilled trade programs especially for women. The Ontario Colleges website states, “women excel in all traditionally male-dominated careers, including those in construction, manufacturing, automotive, mining, welding, and more.”

Trades are divided into four groups by Ontario Colleges: Construction, Industrial, Motive Power and Service. And women are encouraged to explore all four groups: if you're a woman interested in the trades, there's nothing stopping you from empowering yourself to put on a hard hat and a pair of steel-toe boots and shatter the stereotypes around careers in the trades.

To fuel these efforts, according to the Remi Network, the federal “government has pledged $76 million to draw more women into the construction trades.” Three programs in the “2018 federal budget, will inform women about apprenticeship programs, dispense financial grants for training and provide resources as they move into the workforce.”

Someone who is championing women in the trades is Sherry Holmes – daughter of television host Mike Holmes. Sherry is changing attitudes and demonstrating that women contribute significantly to skilled trades. On the Make It Right website, Mike Holmes says, “Women working in the trades today are doing more than just their job. They are changing the world and the future—not just of other women, but for everyone. And they’re tough as nails. All I have to do is look at the workmanship and dedication of the women I work with and I know that women belong in the trades—they always have.”

It’s one thing to read about the issue online, but what can we do as individuals? Perhaps shedding gender-based stereotypes and discussing the value of occupations based on their contribution and earning potential will help normalize the concept. Perhaps we can get to a place where we encourage our youth to explore all occupational opportunities focusing on their potential and interests rather than societal expectations. As employers and colleagues, we can embrace change and encourage and celebrate women who choose skilled trade occupations.

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How do I make sure to get the right size?

To measure your feet:

  1. Get a blank piece of paper, a pencil and a tape measure.
  2. Stand with one foot on the piece of paper, and have most of your weight on your foot to simulate walking.
  3. Holding the pencil perfectly vertical and perpendicular to the paper, mark a line at the back of your heel and at the tip of your longest toe. Also mark a line along each side of the widest part of your foot.
  4. Measure length and width to the nearest 16th inch and subtract .20 to .25 inches, or .50 centimetres, to account for the width of the pencil.
  5. Find your corresponding size in the charts below.

A couple of tips to get the perfect fit:

  • Measure your feet later in the day as feet normally swell and can become up to half a size bigger in the evening.
  • Measure both feet and use the measurements of the biggest foot. Many people have feet that are different sizes.
  • Wear the same type of socks you will generally be wearing on the job when you measure your feet.

Here are some general guidelines to assess fit once you’ve received your new boots:

  • Try on new boots towards the end of the day.
  • Walk around in a clean environment for a couple of hours to make sure the boots are comfortable.
  • Try boots on both feet, as many people have feet that are different sizes.
  • Boots should fit snugly around the heel and ankle when laced.
  • The inner side of the boot should be straight from the heel to the end of the big toe.
  • The boot should grip the heel firmly.

Measuring apparel for proper fit

Size X-Small Small Medium Large X-Large 2X-Large 3X-Large
Neck - Inches 13-13.5 14-14.5 15-15.5 16-16.5 17-17.5 18-18.5 19-19.5
Neck - Centimetres 33-35 36-37 38-39 41-42 43-44 45-47 48-50
Chest - Inches 30-32 34-36 38-40 42-44 46-48 50-52 54-56
Chest - Centimetres 76-81 86-91 97-102 107-112 117-122 127-132 137-147
Waist - Inches 27-28 29-31 32-34 36-38 40-42 44-46 48-50
Waist - Centimetres 68-71 73-78 81-83 91-96 101-106 111-116 121-127

Hint: For the most accurate results, measure yourself in your undergarments.

  • Neck: Measure around the base of your neck, inserting your forefinger between the tape and your neck to allow ease in fit.
  • Chest: Measure around the fullest part of your chest, keeping tape firmly under your armpits and around your shoulder blades.
  • Waist: Measure around your waist, slightly below your natural waist, where you normally wear your pants. Insert your forefinger between the tape and your body to allow ease in fit.
  • Sleeve length: Bend your arm slightly. Measure from centre back neck, across your shoulder, down to your elbow, down to your wrist.
  • Hip: Measure around the fullest part of your hips, inserting your forefinger between the tape and your hip to allow ease in fit.
  • Inseam: Measure a similar pant that fits you well. Measure along the inseam, from the crotch seam to the bottom of the hem.

Between sizes?

If your measurements are in between those listed in the size chart, pick the next larger size.