Skilled trades, arts and tech can do more to recruit, retain women, these advocates say

Whether it's in skilled trades, arts or tech, these women say there is more that can be done to recruit and retain women to their industries.

'Slow but steady progress' made in tech industry, Ontario Centre of Innovation CEO says

Shelby Dunn of Windsor, Ont., is seen in this file photo. She completed her masonry qualifications straight from high school through a skilled trades program between the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and St. Clair College. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Whether it's in the arts, skilled trades or technology, advocates in those fields say their industries can and should be doing more to recruit and retain women.

Tuesday is International Women's Day and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition heard from women who say progress has been made in their industry, but in each case, they said employers could do a better job of supporting women in their work.

Skilled trades

There is still a small group of people who continue to believe women don't belong in skilled trades, said France Daviault, executive director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

She said in recent years, there have been "promising trends" in recruiting more women to the trades, but right now, the industry's workforce is about five per cent women, which is a "very, very small number," she said.

Daviault said companies need to "state the obvious" in things like job postings, saying women are welcome to apply.

France Daviault is executive director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum. (Twitter/@daviault_f)

Once women apply and get the jobs, she said employers need to do more to ensure women aren't being bullied or harassed on job sites, which she says is one of the main reasons she hears from women who decide to leave the industry.

"The culture on the work site needs to catch up and change. And that takes action," Daviault said.

She said companies need to put into place policies and processes for inclusion in general. This should focus not just on women, but also BIPOC women, Indigenous women and people from the LGBTQ-plus community.

Her advice to young women thinking about a career in skilled trades is to do their research, build their skill set and then find an employer who has a proven track record of hiring women.

LISTEN | Barriers for women to enter skilled trades persist and employers can do more to curb that, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum executive director says.

The arts

In a panel hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University on Monday, three artists spoke about how more can be done to help women succeed.

Larissa Koniuk, one of the founders of Bicycle Opera in Toronto, said new mothers face challenges if they want to be in the performing arts.

"The rehearsal hours, the way things are done, it doesn't make room if you chose to breastfeed a newborn," she said. She's starting a new show that will be "going to be inclusive of families."

Melissa Falconer, Larissa Koniuk and Nelu Handa we're part of a panel discussion hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University celebrating women in the arts. (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Nelu Handa, who has written for Baroness Von Sketch, TallBoyz and Jane, champions for greater representation in acting and in comedy. She hosts a comedy showcase for women of colour.

"[It's] letting women of colour know there is a space for them," she said.

Melissa Falconer, a visual artist, said she's wanted to create work to help people see themselves in their pieces and the message is that they should love themselves.

LISTEN | A career in the Arts could be more inclusive and these 3 Laurier grads have ideas on how to make it happen.


When it comes to getting women into tech jobs, "we still have quite a bit of work to do," said Claudia Krywiak, president and CEO of the Ontario Centre of Innovation. She also serves on the board of the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ont.

"Despite advances being made in recent years, unfortunately women still remain less likely to choose a career in technology, in engineering, in mathematics and computer science," she said.

Claudia Krywiak is president and CEO of the Ontario Centre of Innovation. She's also an independent director with the consulting firm IBI Group. (IBI Group)

Krywiak noted that in large tech companies, women often make up just a quarter of the workforce. In smaller tech startups, it may be closer to 30 per cent.

She said that is growth from a decade ago, and views it as "slow but steady progress."

Women in tech need access to funding, the ability to network with others, mentorship opportunities and sponsorship where women can be paired with someone to help them advance their careers.

"The good news is increasingly, especially in Ontario and for example in the Waterloo, Kitchener region, there are a number of initiatives that help women with these two areas, to reduce some of the barriers around access to capital, access to network, access to sponsors and mentors," she said.

LISTEN | More could be done to address persistent gender gap in the tech industry, Ontario Centre of Innovation CEO says.