Build Together: Women

Build Together, Women of the Building Trades

Build Together, Women of the Building Trades is a national CBTU program that promotes, supports and mentors women in the skilled construction trades.

In Canada, women represent only 4% of the construction trade workforce;
construction is seen as the “last frontier” in terms of increasing numbers of female representation. Other industries & sectors- the military, law enforcement, etc. have surpassed 15% female representation. The numbers of women in construction has remained unchanged for years. The tradeswomen of Build Together, together with industry support—plan to change this.

For centuries, construction workers passed on the knowledge of their craft from father to son. This generational “passing of the torch” led to insular recruiting strategies in the past. Contemporary advertising strategies perpetuate the assumption by heavily gearing images and language towards men. The Build Together program has tailored strategies to actively recruit & retain women to the industry.

  • Lack of Awareness of the opportunities and careers in the trades.
  • Lack of role models, mentorship & support networks.
  • Flex hours- i.e. childcare.
  • Lack of employment opportunities.
  • Discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices.
  • Gender appropriate washrooms onsite.
  • Lack of safety equipment or improper fitting equipment for women.
  • Workplace exclusion, harassment, discrimination & limited organizational practices to address it.
  • Accommodation for pregnancy.

What the local/union/employer can do:

  • Respectful workplaces: training programs for stewards & foreman, diversity in the workplace training for crew members, procedures & policies to address bullying and harassment, zero tolerance policies with real consequences (accountability).
  • Industry leadership- setting the tone & expectations from the ‘top down’ can help to shape company culture to one of inclusivity.
  • Mentorship training for Journeypersons via the CBTU Mentorship Alliance
  • Networking, conferences and events for women – this helps with feelings of isolation.
  • Ensuring proper fitting safety equipment and gear for women & gender appropriate washrooms/changerooms onsite.
  • Flexible work hours to navigate special circumstances around childcare schedules.
  • Start a women’s committee- this can help address a few issues: less isolation for women, mentorship, networking and the committee can help promote the trade & local/employer, creating an awareness of the opportunities of careers in the trades.
  • Developing a Pre-Delivery/Birth Maternity Benefit

A lot of the barriers that face women are the existing myths and stereotypes about our ability to do the job well. While these myths are just that—myths—studies have shown that women are not completing their apprenticeships and are under-represented in many trades.

Even the most persistent myths are easily dispelled with facts and the reality of the workplace:

“Jobs in skilled trades are not good jobs for women.”
“Jobs in skilled trades are not creative.”
“Skilled trades are just for students who don’t excel in academics.”

Advertising and recruitment strategies are also heavily geared towards men, which encourages the misconception that the trades are a career path for men only. This is simply not true. The number of women actively pursuing and succeeding in the skilled trades is growing.

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