One group wants to mentor and network women in trades. As more women enter skilled construction trades in Ontario, some say sexism and discrimination still dominate job sites. While there has been a push to get underrepresented groups into skilled trades, some construction workers say stereotypes persist. “It still feels unwelcoming,” said Red Seal sheet metal worker and Women on Site co-founder Samara Sampson. “I’ve been asked why I’m taking a man’s job,” Sampson said.
As Ontario plans to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade, it needs 100,000 more construction workers and is encouraging women to join skilled trades. “New apprenticeship registrations for women are up nearly 30 percent compared to last spring,” a Ministry of Labour representative told CBC News. Sampson, a member of CBC Toronto’s texting messaging community for skilled trades workers, has noticed that push but worries that not enough is being done to retain tradespeople. What about the women here? “What’s keeping us here?” she asked , It’s why Sampson and three other construction women founded Women on Site last year. She says the organisation empowers tradeswomen through community, mentorship, and networking.
“We found the camaraderie that we’ve been missing,” says Sampson, adding that men-dominated professions can make women feel isolated. Women on Site has dozens of members, including CBC Toronto’s skilled trades text messaging community’s Reta Swift. Swift, a Hamilton carpenter, says workplace harassment, inappropriate comments, and touching are common.
“Both myself and every other woman I’ve met who works in construction trades has dealt with that,” she said. Sampson says Women on Site has three major networking events planned for later this year to mentor and network skilled tradeswomen. Women on Site submitted
She’s had other issues. Swift worked two jobs as an apprentice before finding unionised work with Reimar Forming & Construction.
Swift said he made less than his team’s labourers. Women dominate low-paying trades.
Women earn less than half of men in skilled trades, including construction, according to a 2021 Canadian Labour Market Information Council report.
The report suggests that women are overrepresented in low-paying trades. Swift worked with her toolbelt for six months during the COVID-19 pandemic before finishing her last trimester in an office role for the same company. She was happy to return to work 10 months after her child was born, but she says many new mothers have to work before daycare centres open.
The Canadian Labour Market Information Council reported in 2021 that women earn half as much as men in skilled trades, including construction. Pat Swadden/CBC
“I don’t know where you’re going to put your children when they require you to start at 6:30, 7:00 in the morning,” said Karen Pullen, executive member of IBEW 353 and Ontario Construction and Building Trades Women’s Committee chair.
“It’s very difficult to find nursery,” said Pullen, a former electrician.
Pullen, who started in the industry over 30 years ago, says it has improved but still has a long way to go.
Need ‘buy-in from male allies ; She’s glad to hear that large construction sites now have female-only bathrooms. “No walls, just a toilet in the middle of the room,” Pullen said of the old bathrooms, which she had to ask everyone to leave to use.
She believes industry culture must change. That means more people, especially employers, recognise the value of women in the industry speaking out against discrimination. “We’re not going to get anywhere unless we get the buy-in from our male allies,” says Pullen. Sampson says trades are rewarding despite ongoing issues for women.
“We can do it now. We are. We’re working. You belong.” The ministry recommends calling its health and safety contact centre at 1-877-202-0008 to report workplace violence, harassment, or discrimination.
Leave a Reply