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Diversifying Canada's Skilled Trades

LiUNA Is Leading the Way in Advocating for Women in the Trades

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Thanks to LiUNA’s leadership, women in the trades are thriving and finding rewarding, fulfilling careers in construction.

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) remains a strong advocate for women in the trades, taking innovative, collaborative steps forward to dismantle structural barriers and challenge the assumptions and implicit biases that have traditionally prevented women from entering the construction industry.

Through LiUNA’s progressive leadership in outreach, mentorship, and training initiatives, we’re implementing programs that strengthen Canada’s skilled workforce with a significant focus on pathways to strengthen retention that will promote a safe and dignified culture on-site and foster opportunities for women to grow and advance in the industry. 

A champion for women in the trades 

In Ontario, we’ve seen a boost in apprenticeship registrations by 24 per cent in the last year compared to previous years, including by nearly 30 per cent among women. We’ve seen a commitment to improving industry standards, including personal protective equipment for women and washroom facilities on-site — initiatives that LiUNA’s longstanding advocacy helped champion. 

Through collaborative efforts of labour, government, and industry, we must continue this momentum and ensure that our workforce is a reflection of the communities in which our members live, work, and build. Skilled trades remain paramount to the strength, connectivity, growth, and function of our country and our economy. From housing, roads, transit, health care, energy infrastructure, and more, LiUNA members answer the call, building up the communities we call home with pride in knowing “we built that!”

Knocking down barriers

The construction industry, traditionally identified as a male-dominated field, is becoming more gender-inclusive. With women taking on leadership positions and advancing to owning companies, and pay equity in every LiUNA collective agreement, we’re seeing a transition that dispels stigma and ideologies aimed at preventing women from succeeding in construction.

Our LiUNA sisters are a pillar of strength and together we’re knocking down barriers each and every day, which will have a direct impact on our current and future generation of women in the trades.

The trades are becoming more diverse, and I’ve received nothing but support from everyone I’ve worked with. I strongly encourage more women who might be considering the trades to make the jump.

Through our Labourers for Equity and Diversity (LEAD) program, we’ve implemented a zero-tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace, including mandatory “Be More than a Bystander” training for our representatives to ensure that women aren’t met with systemic barriers to diminish their success in the industry. Together, we’re empowering a path forward to build careers that advance stronger futures, financial stability, health and wellness benefits, retirement security, and transferable skills for life. To ensure that all workers are treated with dignity must be the goal of every trade.

A story of success

Meet LiUNA sister Damara, who’s working in the high-rise sector in Kingston, Ont. Her LiUNA membership has paved the way forward for a strong career in the construction industry. 

“I got started in the construction industry over a year ago after looking for a new path and career,” says Damara. “My father has worked with LiUNA Local 183 for over 40 years now, so I understood what the work entails, but I was always nervous about making the leap. After completing an education in behavioural science and working in the health care industry, I realized that career wasn’t for me. I felt a bit unhappy and knew I wanted to try something new. I can say with certainty that I have no regrets in making this transition — I’ve enjoyed it all!”

Today, Damara works as a general labourer on a condominium high-rise. “My day-to-day is always changing but to list a few responsibilities, I’ll support the form setters, build scaffolding and decking, and maintain the work area to ensure safe working conditions,” she says. “The first job I worked on was near completion so at the time a lot of my responsibility was dedicated to maintaining a clean and safe job site — but I’ve been able to learn a lot on this site with more hands-on work.”

Building for the future

The advice Damara would give to anyone looking to enter the construction industry is to go in full throttle and learn as much as you can. “Coming from a few different backgrounds like retail, the service industry, and health care, I find it the least stressful career I’ve been in,” she says. “There are obviously new physical demands that come with this career but it’s a real family environment on the job site and everyone is working toward a common goal. In terms of advice I’d give to my younger self, I’d tell myself to do this a lot sooner. Especially as a wife and mother with two kids, building toward a pension that I know will help my family down the road is something I’d have liked to start earlier.”

Celebrating LiUNA sisters

What Damara enjoys most about her job is the anticipation of completing a project. “I remember being younger and my dad pointing out buildings or jobs that he worked on and saying, ‘Hey, Damara, I built that!’” she says. “I’m really excited to do the same with my kids.”

Damara shares advice for any women reading this. “I just want to say that I remember thinking when I was younger that only men can work in construction and while I might be the only woman on my site, it doesn’t feel that way,” she says. “The trades are becoming more diverse, and I’ve received nothing but support from everyone I’ve worked with. I strongly encourage more women who might be considering the trades to make the jump.”

Join us as we celebrate the strength and perseverance of our LiUNA sisters, who move our industry, organization, and country forward and who continue to motivate the next generation of industry leaders and community builders!  

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