Women make slow headway in the trades

Tyler Clarke
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Journeyperson plumber Charmaine Stevenson gives a presentation to young women on entering the trades, at SIAST’s Woodland Campus on Tuesday. 

It’s difficult to figure out why, exactly, women remain vastly out-numbered by men in the trades, but Devin West anticipates seeing the gap narrow.

“I see a steady increase as we’re booming and the labour is needed,” she said, citing Saskatchewan’s booming economy and corresponding demand on the trades.

In addition to retaining her journeyman carpenter certificate, West serves as co-ordinator of women in trades and technology at SIAST.

Her job is part promoting the trades to women and supporting women apprentices.

Although there’s greater public acceptance when it comes to women in the trades than there was a few decades ago, the numbers aren’t stacking up very well.

In the ’70s, only two per cent of people working in the trades were women.

Now, it’s hovering at the three per cent mark -- 10 per cent if you include hairdressing and cooking.

On Tuesday, a handful of tradeswomen shared insight into their professions to a group of young women as part of the Woodland Equity in Trades series.

“It’s just a way of making is more visible as an opportunity to high school students,” West said.

“University is pushed to kids in general, so this is an alternative to university or to waitressing or retail.”

Although local journeyman plumber Charmaine Stevenson noted that being a woman in the trades hasn’t been easy, she’s happy with her decision.

“I think women need to be in trades,” she said. “I want everyone to know that I can do the exact same thing as anyone else -- as a man, for instance.”

“I want to show other people that they can do it too, and I want more people to become journeyperson plumbers. There are hardly any – it’s male-dominated.”

I see a steady increase as we’re booming and the labour is needed Devin West

Plumbing is much more than fixing toilets, she said, noting that she also gas-fits and repairs furnaces, among countless other tasks.

“Your job is completely different every day, and you don’t know what you’re going to get into,” she said, adding that plumbers’ wages aren’t too bad, either.

As a single parent, she said that her profession has provided her family everything that they need.

“I don’t have to rely on someone else, and I think that’s very important,” she concluded.

Conservation officer Bonnie Greene said that while her field is male dominated, with only six of Saskatchewan’s 95 full-time conservation officers female, she’s found personal fulfilment through her work.

“You’re always improving and learning as an officer -- it doesn’t stop once you get hired.”

Journeyperson electrician Andrea Crittenden told the young women at Tuesday’s presentation that although females may face a tougher go of things when it comes to the trades, it’s worth the effort.

When she first started out, she said that employers were turning her away, “just because I was female.”

“It definitely didn’t stop me and prevent me from carrying on to do what I wanted to do,” she said.

“I really loved the hands-on work, and that’s what really drew me to shop class,” she said. “I knew that university wasn’t going to be a route for me -- I couldn’t imagine spending another four full years in school, like that.”

Organizations: SIAST

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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Recent comments

  • Adrienne Jones
    April 10, 2014 - 17:21

    Good afternoon I am a female in the construction trades and now in school to receive my certificate and I have worked in the field as well and it is not easy to be a female and working with men being discriminated.