Saturday, 31 August 2013

Women in Non-Traditional Careers

There is an ever-growing need for younger people, including women, in trades. There is a widening gap in the trades industry, especially in Canada. As of 2013, less than 25% of skilled labourers in trades are under the age of 25, and the number continues to decline. Further to that, according to Statistics Canada, less than 5% of the workers in skilled trades are women. Trades jobs are plentiful in North America and the pay is generous. So, what is it that’s keeping women out of the trades?

Fear of workplace harassment
Many women fear that working with an all-male staff will put them at risk for workplace harassment. This fear is what keeps many women out of skilled trades.

Fear of what others will think of them working a “man’s” job / Women in trades stigma
When people think of trades workers, they might have preconceived ideas of big, burly men with hard hats and steel-toed boots. Many women feel they would not belong in this type of workplace, and may worry about how others may view them (“that’s not very ladylike,” “she must be a lesbian if she works a trade job,” and other such closed-minded views).

They don’t think they will be physically strong enough
Many trades positions require extreme physical strength and fitness, which women can absolutely achieve and maintain. It may take work, but it is possible. However, there are many other trades position that simply require good physical health, and it is worth the research to find out which trade would be appropriate for you if this is a factor you are worried about.

Why are women needed in trades?
The Conference Board of Canada projects that there will be approximately one million people needed in skilled trades by the year 2020. That is a huge number which cannot be filled by men alone. Women are encouraged to close the labour gap sooner than later, as the average age of skilled trades workers is 55 years and skilled, experienced people will be needed desperately within the next ten years.

Don’t be apprehensive just because you are female! Workplace culture is shifting significantly, as is how women are viewed in the workplace. Gender and societal “norms” are bending and changing to allow women the freedom to choose whatever career path they wish.

Women all over the world can build successful careers in non-traditional roles and there are many supports available to do so. Each province in Canada supports women in trades by offering their own program (for example, British Columbia offers a Women in Trades program through the Industry Training Authority, Alberta offers a program called Women Building Futures, etc). If you don’t live in Canada, contact your local government to ask what programs they have in place for women wanting to enter a trade. You may be surprised by what you find!

By Jennifer Andrews

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