N.S. program aims to get male supervisors more involved in creating inclusive workplaces
Fewer than five per cent of electricians, carpenters and automotive technicians are women
A program from YWCA Halifax is aiming to create more inclusive workplaces for women in skilled trades by training the people who can have a large impact — male supervisors.
Fewer than five per cent of electricians, carpenters and automotive technicians are women but Miia Suokonautio, executive director of YWCA Halifax, says she hopes that will change.
"Male supervisors have a huge impact on the workplace culture that women are experiencing. They're often involved in recruitment, but they're pivotal to retention," she said in an interview with Mainstreet Nova Scotia.
Women's economic empowerment has always been a large part of YWCA's work over its 150-year history, Suokonautio said. This program, Shift Change, launched in 2019.
Recruitment isn't the only issue when it comes to diversifying trades, it's also about retention. Suokonautio said both men and women have said there's a bullying culture in some workplaces, with bystanders not knowing how to help dismantle this culture.
Soukonautio said supervisors were not being trained or supported to change their workplaces. Programs like Shift Change are starting to have a positive impact, but this isn't the time to slow down.
"Do we want another generation to pass where we haven't moved the needle?" she said.
Tim Manuel is vice-president of fixed operations for O'Regan's Automotive Group in Halifax. He participated in the training module aimed at male supervisors, created in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College.
Manuel said it was an intense training period where he learned a lot. Manuel said he was first able to use the training when he was back at work during a weekly safety meeting by talking about how to be good allies and not bystanders.
The course had 15 participants learning over six days for a total of 30 hours.
The participants were able to interview women in skilled trades about their experiences in the workplace, and Manuel found he was consistently told the same thing.
"They don't want to be seen as a female technician, or female electrician, or plumber. They just want to be seen as a technician, plumber or electrician, " he said.
"They just want to do their job."
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With files from Mainstreet Nova Scotia