Women are in the trades, changing the industry

Apr 18, 2024 | Campus News, Headlines, News

Olivia Dawn Barrow, a welding technician at Humber College Carrier Drive campus, said she has been working at Humber since 2021, and there is a slow change in gender dynamics.

“We do have quite a few female teachers,” she said. “We have a welding teacher here. In the carpentry lab, one of the teachers is female [and] in every semester I am seeing more and more women.”

Men have been, and are being, much more supportive of women in the trades, Barrow said.

A girl in her welding uniform is smiling in front of the entrance of the welding lab.

Olivia Dawn Barrow is standing in front of the entrance of the welding lab at Humber Carrier Campus. She is a licensed welding technician and she helps/observers students. Photo credit: Eleanor Kate Iglesia

“I think people like to paint this picture that women aren’t really accepted in the trades,” she said. “But I’ve never met anyone that said I shouldn’t be here, if anything thing they have always been like women bring a different set of skills to the trades.”

Humber College opened a 95,000-square-foot Centre for Trades and Technology facility in 2009. The college extended the centre by opening a Carrier Drive campus, near the North campus, specifically for the skills trade industry.

As Humber expanded the Centre for Trades and Technology facility, they have been hiring female professors and technicians.

Michael Auchincloss, an associate dean of Skilled Trades and Technology at the Humber Carrier Drive campus, said through the many years he has been working for Humber’s applied technology facility, there has been an increasing number of women working.

Not only has he seen more women working in the trades at Humber, but he’s also recognized the skills women bring.

“There’s a difference between the way males think and females think when it comes to thought process,” Auchincloss said. “There’s more effort being put on the front end, and planning, and how to put things together in the way of planning that females do, that sometimes males don’t do.”

Humber works towards adding more female representation in the Carrier Drive campus so that women interested in the trades aren’t hesitant in their environment, he said.

Alexandra Zita Gal, a first-year student in the welding techniques program, said her father was why she wanted to be in the trades.

A girl with two braids smiling.

Alexandra Zita Gal grow up in a household where she learned a little bit about the trades and tools from her father. Photo credit: Eleanor Kate Iglesia

“My dad is a tool and dye maker,” she said. “So, I grew up watching him fix things, and working on things, and doing little projects here and there.”

Being in the trades was something she knew she wanted to do even after doing a gap year from graduating high school, Gal said.

Being back in school with males being the majority of her classmates, her experience in class isn’t the way she expected, she said.

“It wasn’t as intimating as I thought it was going to be,” Gal said. “I think having some sort of background knowledge definitely … made me feel more confident coming into a shop knowing that I’m going to be around a bunch of men.”

Advertising that the trades can be for women might help other women consider working in the industry, she said.

“It’s a welcoming environment and [women] shouldn’t be scared, they should bite the bullet and do it,” Gal said.