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Karen Dearlove

Executive Director, BCCWITT

To secure a bright future, the skilled trades sector needs to revamp its accessibility and open more doors for women.

On International Women’s Day in 2018, the Government of British Colombia allocated funding to two projects supporting women in skilled trades — one of which led to the inception of the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades (BCCWITT).1

Focused on assisting and advancing women in skilled trades, BCCWITT is a partnership led by labour and industry representatives and tradeswomen. Specializing in career development, they provide programming to support women entering the trades sector every step of the way — via training opportunities, funding, childcare, transportation, and more.

Uplifting women is more important than ever, as they only represent four percent of the skilled trades workforce in B.C.2 In a sector that’s destined to face massive worker shortages, adjusting workplace culture, habits, and outlooks to suit the other 50 percent of the Canadian population is paramount for this industry’s survival.3

A social shift

Women in the field often struggle to overcome longstanding prejudices perpetuated by a predominantly male workforce. A toxic workplace environment may inhibit women from accessing career advancement opportunities, thus lowering retention rates. Plus, workplaces may lack standard female washrooms or properly fitted personal protective equipment.

Beyond ensuring a prosperous future, BCCWITT strives to uplift equity-seeking groups and promote diversity. Aside from helping women and marginalized peoples enter trade fields, they’re also committed to making these workplace environments more inclusive.

“Our Be More Than a Bystander program is based on the belief that men need to be standing up for women,” explains Karen Dearlove, BCCWITT’s Executive Director. This successful program helps employers adjust their business practices to suit women, such as their hiring processes and policy placements. “We aim to teach men in leadership positions about how to be better allies — to identify and remedy the impediments women face under their supervision.”

Bringing tradeswomen together

A Red Seal Electrician, Becky Lupton joined the BCCWITT Governance Committee to help women in trades overcome barriers. “I wanted to see other women enter the trade. They’re out there, but they need support.”

That’s why BCCWITT has a Tradeswoman Network, where women in trades can connect and assist one another. Their Regional Representative Program helps tradeswomen develop leadership and mentoring skills, with the goal of increasing diversity.

Becky knows firsthand that women may not realize they can build a successful career in skilled trades. “If you can’t see others like you doing it, it’s difficult to believe you can,” she says. “There are jobs in skilled trades you could love, get well paid for, and build a satisfying career through.”

BCCWITT encourages businesses to develop policies that support women. “Creating safe workplaces goes beyond occupational health and safety — it’s having the correct policies in place,” Karen explains.

Increasing inclusivity

From helping women enter the workforce to uplifting those already in the field, BCCWITT is dedicated to revitalizing the skilled trades arena. Plus, they’re breaking barriers by training company leaders and male coworkers to realize, address, and solve issues hindering the women in their field.

“Creating respectful, safe, healthy workplaces doesn’t just help women; it helps everybody,” Karen says.

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