Promoting and Supporting Women in Trade

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It can be pretty intimidating for a woman to enter the trades because of the underrepresentation of females in industries like construction, carpentry, plumbing and electrical.

In 2011, census data revealed the rates of women in trades were increasing with 1432 female electricians, 931 female motor mechanics, 676 female carpenters, and 638 female plumbers across Australia.

And according to the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Department of Labor in 2014 reported that women represented 4% of the U.S. workforce in natural resources, maintenance, and construction. And in the U.K., it was reported that almost 6% of trade workers that included builders, plumbers, and plasterers are women.

However, in Canada, while women account for nearly half of the workforce, they continue to be under-represented in skilled trades.

There’s no doubt that women in trades are on the rise all over the world. However, despite the growing numbers and impressive reviews of their capabilities and performance, hurdles still exist that keep women in trade from achieving equality, respect, and acceptance.

Women in trades experience three main barriers when trying to acquire training and employment in skilled trade occupations:

  1. Discrimination

In Canada, much like other countries, skilled trades are traditionally defined as male occupations. It’s no secret that the majority of cultures and societies separate based on gender and the reality is that gender stereotypes and inequality dominate society.

In the U.S., it was reported that women’s underrepresentation in high-paying industries is one main reason that women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, on average.

  1. Lack of Educational Promotion

Lindsay Amundsen, a workforce development coordinator at Canada’s Building Trades Union, runs a national women-in-construction program that supports and mentors women in the skilled construction trades. When asked why more women don’t pursue to participate apprenticeship programs, she cites that there is a lack of awareness:

“Students are not taught in school — especially young girls — that a career in the trades is an option for them.”

And with gender stereotypes still posing a threat to work equality, most trade schools and programs tend to advertise and gravitate towards recruiting men.

  1. Inability of Workplaces to Implement Change

The reality is, despite the implementation of the Canada Labour Program, many employers refuse to change their attitudes and simply will not hire women.

To enforce change, organizations like WiN Canada and Skills Compétences Canada have taken steps to address these issues. However, many women in trade know that while policies and regulations are the steps in the right direction, the change needs to happen on a cultural level.

Women in trade are committed to changing the face of the industry. In the U.K., the surge in what has been dubbed as “white-van women” or women in trade is because employers are seeking tradespeople who are not only reliable but have excellent customer skills – both of which women have.

It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up as women continue to close the gender gap and change the social perception that these jobs are too physical and too dirty for women.

In Canada, government and workers unions have taken the steps towards closing the gender gap by requiring employers to accommodate from the four designated groups in Canada – Women, Aboriginal Peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities.

However, the hope is that someday, there will no longer be a need for regulations and that employers and society will naturally employ and promote women in trades based on their skills and expertise alone.

Natasha Martynes, Red Seal Journeyperson Plumber and holder of the Blue Seal for business in trades, founded her company MARZ Plumbing in 2014 and caters to the Saskatoon area. They specialize in plumbing repairs, repairing and installing hot water heaters, drain cleaning, gas fitting, and renovations.

Knowing all too well the struggles that women in trade often face in the industry, Natasha and her company are not only dedicated to the highest level of customer service but also have a commitment to promote women in trades and encourage the youth to become involved.

Natasha and her team support local organizations and initiatives in Saskatoon such as YWCA’s Trade Journey and the High School Carpentry Apprenticeship Program (HCAP). The Trade Journey program is a pre-trades program that prepares women for success in their trade of choice whereas the HCAP program provides an opportunity for students to experience a hands-on approach to learning. Students will spend a semester working with a carpenter/teacher to build a RTM house.

To learn more about Natasha and her business, check out the website for Marz Plumbing and get in touch with her if you have any questions about starting your own business.

You can also check out the deals Marz Plumbing is currently selling on the Kijenga marketplace. Shop Now!

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