Earlier last month, the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team inspired our Nation by winning a Bronze Medal at London’s 2012 Olympic Games–the first team medal at a Summer Games for Canada since 1936– when the Canadian Men’s Basketball Team won Silver.
The win propelled Canada into a moment of national bonding; a shared moment that will be retold time and again as a great Canadian sporting triumph. However, it’s the story of how the team accomplished ‘the win’ and not just the victory, that will create waves of interest and will cultivate and encourage women’s participation in soccer for years to come.
I cheered their sheer display of guts, determination and the palpable sense that even though they were outplayed, they were not going to quit until they found a way to win. They had already won my heart. So while laughing, crying, high-fiving and dancing after their victory, I couldn’t help but imagine what it could be like if there was an equally large and collective impetus for Canada to share in a moment of awareness about Women in Skilled Trades? Just imagine something on that scale, grabbing our hearts and minds, providing an undeniable moment of bonding. Imagine Canada rallying behind women because with one significant victory–women in skilled trades became a normal, celebrated, desired and supported choice for women.
Women still comprise only 3.5% of people in non-traditional trades, deemed as any trade with less than 25% female inclusion. There are over 150 trades in Ontario and yet women only represent 8-10% across the board. So why is it you ask that in 2012, a skilled trade career is still not a normal, celebrated, desired and supported choice for women? The answer, in essence, comes down to the division of labour by gender stereotyping, which has been the case since the end of World War II.
To all women no matter your age–you have the intelligence, skill, strength, will, commitment, ingenuity and passion to be a winner in whatever skilled trade your heart desires. It’s the status quo in the skilled trades and in the minds and hearts of the nation that still needs to change.
All four trade sectors, Motive Power, Industrial, Service and Construction need to do much more to respond to numbers that don’t lie. Women already working in the skilled trades have been mounting mini ‘Olympic’ moments for decades because women and men should feel equally free and invited to pursue whatever career one desires. Installing a women’s change room doesn’t bring equality to the trades, it brings compliance. If you help build women a truly ‘Olympic’ moment, then women will come. Clearly, women know how to win. But after more than 70 years of labour and opportunity divided by gender stereotyping and an unapologetic and too-slow-to-change-status-quo, it sure would be nice to have a level playing field on which to play the match–for the win.
GO WOMEN GO!
Sue Allen is a proud Tradeswoman and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Sue’s name is synonymous not only with the creation of innovative programming and policies, but equally for her ability as a writer and public speaker to articulate and inspire. Sue spent years as a Tractor-Trailer Operator, Fleet Driver Trainer and Examiner. Also, as a Transportation Specialist, she has both driven and held management positions in Hollywood North’s film and television Industry. Sue holds the honour of being the first woman member voted into I.A.T.S.E. Local 873’s, Transportation Category in 1999. Passionate about the skilled trades and passionate about equality, Sue Allen is known as a Trailblazer.