OPINION: We need more women in skilled trades

Dec 8, 2023 | OP-ED, Opinion

I believe that women are smart, powerful, strong and independent, and can do anything if they work hard. I also believe this is why we need more women in skilled trades.

Research from the Institute for Research on Public Policy finds that women, make less in skilled trades, even in female-dominated fields. Women with trade certificates earn an average of less than half, (46 per cent) of what men earn after eight years in the field. About 80 per cent of women in trades are certified as hairstylists, cooks and bakers where they earn an average between $27,000 and $41,000 and men earn between $36,000 and $51,000.

Even though the Skilled Trades College of Canada says more women are considering careers in the trades, they are often the target of stereotypes and bias in the workplace.

Data also shows that women in trades may be assigned lower-skilled roles and get fewer opportunities because men have a specific stereotype surrounding what a trade worker looks like. The fact that the majority of women are the primary caregivers for young children adds another barrier.

When it comes to high school students, I believe that colleges should show more advertisements or commercials of girls being in skilled trades so that high school girls can know that girls can work there, too.

Fanshawe College has hosted workshops where young women interested in first-hand experience with skilled trades can get exposure. Ninety girls from Grades 9 to 12 explored their interest in electric, carpentry, plumbing and automotive work in a recent workshop.

Another possible solution is sensitivity training. It teaches men and women about life experiences and perspectives in the workplace. It also explores the impact of words and actions and how some of them can be hurtful. Sensitivity training can help co-workers communicate better and work positively and appropriately.

Working in skilled trades is an economic prospect, and there should be economic benefits for women working in skilled trades. To attract women to skilled trades, they should get above-average pay and affordable training.

The highlights of The Gender Wage Gap report from the Labour Force Survey reveal that female employees in Ontario earned $0.87 on average for every dollar made by a man. The gender wage gap is larger for racialized women, women who are newcomers, women who have disabilities and trans women.

Part of the solution for closing this wage gap is to get women into careers where men have traditionally dominated, like skilled trades. Every woman deserves to do what they want and to be treated as an equal human being in the workplace.

We should let women do what they want, and we should all support each other.