Women in Trades: Empowering Change

The world is full of talented, skilled women who shatter glass ceilings in traditionally male-dominated fields. Particularly in the trades, there have been some improvements in the number of women entering the field in Canada. According to BuildForce Canada, employment of women aged 15 to 24 in the industry rose from 10,500 in 2022 to almost 17,000 last year. Even with more women entering the trades, there is a need for more workers across Canada. A report by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) shows that about a third of construction companies on Vancouver Island expect to be busier this year than in 2023, but 77% of them are still looking for workers. Even with the increased numbers of women entering the trades, only 4.5% of construction trade workers in BC are women. This is a huge opportunity for employers in the trades to hire women.

So why are there fewer women in the trades? One of the most significant problems women face when entering the trades is the barriers and stigmas that come with it. These barriers could be financial hurdles, such as the cost of education, transportation or tools, and systemic barriers like sexism. Even when women manage to enter the trades, they tend to earn only 47% of what men earn, with a median income of $31,400. This is because many women tend to enter low-paying trades professions such as hairstyling, cooking, and baking. As a result, the income gap between men and women in trades only seems to widen. This begs the question: How can we break these barriers and create a more inclusive and safe space for women to enter the trades?

A big step for trades employers is to explore solutions to promote gender equality. Some employers, like Manitoba Hydro, started a pre-placement program for women in trades that will allow them to develop the skills required to successfully compete for a position in the power electrician, mechanical technician, or power line technician training programs. Another workplace improvement area that is a barrier for women is access to properly fitting PPE on the worksite. A report by the Canadian Standards Association found that 92 percent of about 500 women construction workers surveyed reported one or more problems with personal protective equipment. Some businesses are now offering PPE and workwear specifically for women. Employers can create change in their workplace by implementing initiatives for additional supportive structures to encourage and enhance female participation.

Programs that support women in trades play a crucial role in empowering aspiring female tradespeople. Locally, Camosun College offers the Women in Trades Training (WITT) program, which grants eligible participants funding through the Canada–British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement. This program creates a safe space for women and members of gender equity groups to learn about opportunities in the trades and make informed decisions for their futures. Camosun’s WITT trade exploration programs expose you to different career options in the trades, focusing on safety, skills upgrading, and enhancing your job readiness. Through these programs, students experience hands-on learning opportunities, safety training, career mentorship, and site tours with industry employers. Programs like these provide a supportive community and resources to help women thrive in their chosen fields and reach their full potential.

Overall, the increase in the number of women entering the trades industry in Canada is a positive step towards breaking down gender barriers and creating a more inclusive space for everyone. However, much work still needs to be done to ensure that women are treated equally and given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. By implementing supportive structures, programs, and initiatives, we can empower women to enter and thrive in the trades industry, contributing to a more diverse and skilled workforce.

If you need additional help with your job search, contact us to learn more about our free employment services and resources: 250.478.9525 or info@worklink.bc.ca