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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