Canada Needs More Women in Trades
It is an undeniable truth that Canada needs skilled tradespeople, the need has been growing for over three decades.
Since the 1990’s, Canadians have believed that the route to success is in academics, that Canada will become an “information society”, however the need for trades has never diminished, we still need to build and maintain infrastructure, buildings need to be built, and products need to be manufactured.
With parents guiding their children towards academics, the supply of tradespeople has diminished, while the demand has slowly grown.
Clearly, we need more people in skilled trades, and with men making up 93% of the skilled trade workforce, women are needed to help make up that shortfall.
And there is another, more compelling reason to support programs that encourage women to enter trades.
In every field that women have entered in great numbers, we have seen health and safety standards rise.
Men account for 93% of workplace deaths in Canada, coincidentally the same percentage as men working in skilled trades.
Perhaps it’s because men are less likely to complain about unsafe work environments, or because employers are more likely to listen to women who do complain. Or maybe it’s because the public has more compassion for a female worker who is killed on the job.
Likely it is a combination of these reasons.
Whatever the reasons, men are dying on the job in disproportionate numbers, most in industrial accidents or on construction sites.
These are men with mothers and daughters, wives, friends and family. And every single death leaves a hole in many peoples hearts.
Fighting for society to show compassion for the lives of men and boys is an uphill battle, and one that may never be won. But one sure way to save lives is to encourage the people who society does have care and concern for to take a role in these often dangerous jobs.
So, why would women want to work in trades?
The trades have much to offer women; good pay and benefits, flexible working hours, job security and stability, and rewarding work.
“The rewards of this field are numerous,” says Tammy Evans, a Construction and Land Development Lawyer at Toronto’s Blaney McMurtry and Director with the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC). “Financial wellbeing, tangible job satisfaction, you see the results of your work very quickly,” Evans adds. There is a “stable environment… and an ability to specialize and to pursue career growth.”
Gail Smyth, Executive Director, Skills Ontario points to some common misconceptions regarding such work, misconceptions that may be leading women away from working in skilled trades.
Women may believe that careers in skilled trades require physical strength that women do not posses, that trades are just for people who do not do well academically, or that the working atmosphere is rife with sexism. However these are all myths.
“The truth is skilled trades require individuals with a strong academic foundation in reading, writing, math, and sciences,” Smyth explains. “And physical work does not imply strength. In fact, skilled trades require dexterity, stamina, and good hand-eye coordination — attributes men and women possess equally.”
Ms. Smyth also believes awareness is a part of the problem
“If they are not choosing these careers, it’s because they are not being made aware of them”
However, I find this difficult to believe. High schools have been encouraging girls to pursue careers in traditionally male dominated fields for decades, particularly trades. Posters encouraging girls to stay in mathematics, for example, always seem to feature a young woman wearing a construction helmet and a hi-vis vest.
Newspaper and magazine articles about the state of industry always seem to feature a woman in a welding mask.
In fact, if one were to judge purely from media, they would be excused for thinking construction was a female dominated field.
Women, it seems to me, are being discouraged to work in such careers due to the false claims that blue collar men are rude, sexist pricks who will make their lives hellish should they work in such an atmosphere. And it’s easy to convince young women to avoid dirty, dangerous but well paid jobs over comfortable indoor jobs that don’t pay as well.
For women as a group to become full participants in all facets of society, and to reap the rewards that participation brings with it, they must be made to feel comfortable doing so.
I have heard from young women on many occasions that they would have liked to go into a trade, but did not wish to face the sexism they had been falsely led to believe exists in those fields. Each time they are surprised to hear about the women I have known; carpenters, welders, electricians, and how they all have had a very different experience.
And where did they get this false impression? From feminists, mostly, liberal arts students who have had no actual experiences with the blue collar world.
It’s all a part of the feminist led campaign to make men out to be horrible, sexist pigs; to make ordinary women feel fear and discomfort in anything approaching a “man’s world”
Feminism, in many ways, is holding women back from their full potential. And men are literally dying to welcome them into their world.