The Trade UP! header image 2

More jobs and more respect for women in skilled trades

April 4th, 2009 · 2 Comments

The province of New Brunswick is stepping up efforts to get women involved in the skilled trades as it adds new development projects and suffers – as do so many areas – from a lack of skilled tradespeople. In 2006, the province invested $4 1/2 million in a project that introduced women on social services to skilled trade work in New Brunswick.  But now it needs even more help as it plans major projects such as a proposed energy corridor with the state of Maine, announced last week, that would see renewable electricity and natural gas exported from Atlantic Canada to the New England states.

Rosella Melanson, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women  says, “There have been very few efforts to get women into non-traditional jobs in the province.”

Other projects in the province include the possible construction of a 500 to 600- megawatt power plant, a 1,200 to 1,500-megawatt transmission line and the addition of an unspecified amount of wind power. All the growth provides an opportunity for both women and smart employers. Says Melanson, “Smart employers will think of women because they are an untapped pool.”

Pat Darrah is the Executive Director of the Saint John Construction Association. He says that the opportunity is always there for women: “We have a number of ladies working out at Point Lepreau and we got a number of ladies working on the maintenance side of the industry and on the industrial side.’ The govenment’s employment initiative has helped, as there are more now and in 2006 there were no women.

Irving Oil is holding a “Women in Trades” networking dinner in May that is part of that company’s intitiative to attract more women.

Elsewhere, women in the workforce are finding that they are getting more respect – slowly – over time. At a celebration of the 30th anniversary of its local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, a New York contractor noted how in the early days, many clients treated her “like a secretary.” For women, it may be harder to get respect but they have made great strides, say chapter members, by putting knowledge first.

Kate Beach, an office manager at a fabricating plant called Atlantis Equipment Corp., says, “You just have to know your stuff. You gain that respect the first time you have
someone saying ‘She knows that?’”

While repect for women in construction has ridden the same wave as respect for women in society in general, there are still issues with compensation in New York’s construction trades. “There is not equal compensation,” said Lisa Harding of Lash Contracting in Latham. “In terms of pay, there is a long way to go.”

That same issue haunts New Brunswick’s construction industry: “What is often forgotten is preparing the workplace so that those women are tolerated and welcomed,” Melanson says. “We have seen so many women train for something and then not continue in that line of work because they’ve been harassed from day one or made to be pioneers, and they just move on. It’s a waste of dollars, a waste of talent and we end up with skill shortages.”

But no matter what kind of work anyone faces, there are going to be challenges and problems and ups and downs. Melanson adds, “if you’re a woman looking for a better paying job, going for something non-traditional is probably the way to go.”

Tags: Canada · Career Advice · Women in Trades

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Topics about Construction » Archive » Women in Skilled Trades Slowly Gaining Respect | The Trade UP! // Apr 4, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    [...] Jhuik put an intriguing blog post on Women in Skilled Trades Slowly Gaining Respect | The Trade UP!Here’s a quick excerpt“In terms of pay, there is a long way to go.” That same issue haunts New Brunswick’s construction industry: “What is often forgotten is preparing the workplace so that those women are tolerated and welcomed,” Melanson says. … [...]

  • 2 Sam // May 4, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Hi, nice post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I’ll certainly be coming back to your blog.

Leave a Comment